For my review of the previous Grinch films, click the following link: HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Benedict Cumberbatch, known for AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018), THOR 3 (2017), DOCTOR STRANGE (2016), BLACK MASS (2015), and the upcoming IRONBARK (2019). In support, we have Cameron Seely (THE GREATEST SHOWMAN ), Rashida Jones (TAG , INSIDE OUT , and upcoming films SPIES IN DISGUISE  and KLAUS ), Pharrell Williams (POPSTAR  and PITCH PERFECT 2 ), Kenan Thompson (GOING IN STYLE , and the upcoming WONDER PARK ), and Angela Lansbury (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST , and the upcoming MARY POPPINS RETURNS ).
Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Yarrow Cheney (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS ) and Scott Mosier (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of). Co-writing, we have Michael LeSieur (KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES ) and Tommy Swerdlow (BUSHWHACKED  and COOL RUNNINGS ). Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for DON’T WORRY (2018), TULIP FEVER (2017), GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016), END OF THE TOUR (2015), MEN IN BLACK (1997), II (2002), and 3 (2012), CORALINE (2009), HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008), CORPSE BRIDE (2005), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (1996), THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993), and upcoming films DUMBO (2019) and THE VOYAGE OF DOCTOR DOLITTLE (2020). Finally, the editor is Chris Cartagena, known for FREE BIRDS (2013).
I’ve already seen the film, so let’s get under way.
This is my honest opinion of: THE GRINCH
Christmas is on the horizon in Whoville and everyone is bustling with excitement, with the notable exception of the Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who hates it. Despite his best efforts, the celebrations get too big and too loud for his tastes and soon hatches a scheme to “steal” Christmas from the Whos.
Honestly, I like it. Or… at least, I like it enough. A whole lot better than Ron Howard’s live-action version, that’s for sure, as controversial as that might be.
Okay, so the best first step with this movie is that it’s bright and colorful. I hate to make comparisons and contrasts between movies, but it’s just so ripe for it. Howard’s is so depressing to look at. So much fog and nearly no color at all. Just as a Dr. Seuss movie should be. But more than that, there’s even improvements to the characters. Cindy-Lou (voiced by Cameron Seely) has more personality. She’s not just this cute face for adults to “aww” at. She’s more daring, adventurous, is thoughtful, and ultimately pretty silly. She makes an attempt to visit Santa at the North Pole to talk to him while dressed in, what was it, four layers of jackets? I even love the way her mom Donna (Rashida Jones) handles the situation, making Cindy-Lou think it takes a month to get to the North Pole, well past when Christmas will take place, immediately putting Cindy’s plans on hold. I thought that was a cute moment. She hatches a plan to capture Santa, for crying out loud! This is a great deal better than the live-action version who simply… looks cute and sings… adequately.
The Grinch also feels more improved. He’s still the Christmas grump that he should be, but he’s far less annoying. He’s not screaming his lines, doing annoyingly big movements like he’s on a stage, or mugging for the camera to an unreasonable extent. Even his humanity is hinted at far better. For anyone who thought this would be some kind of prequel movie (and let’s face it, the first poster featuring a young Grinch certainly felt that way), you can put those fears to rest. His past is certainly touched upon. He was an orphan and because he had no family to celebrate the holiday with, he hated Christmas. While I think the movie could have benefited from showing how he was never picked when it came time to adopt other kids and really show his time in isolation, as opposed to skimming over it like it’s some kind of footnote, it’s a lot simpler this time around. It’s simply that he was an orphan. No dumb shaving insults, no romances that never panned out, it’s simply that he had no family.
If I were to change anything about the movie is actually show Grinch as an orphan. Show that other kids were adopted, but never him. That consistency of rejection caused him to run away to his iconic layer. But maybe, the Whos in Whoville knew of this and felt awful about it, and the reason for their extravagant Christmas celebration was two-fold: their simple love of the holiday, but their desires to share the holiday spirit with the Grinch. Maybe the Whos have tried to reach out to him, but in all his bitterness, he’s slapped every outreaching-hand his way and the Whos have simply accepted that his disgruntled behavior is something that he has to work through until he’s ready to join them. He was never the town-reject. While this is never really the case in this movie, that’s certainly the case in the live-action film.
But for all the praises that I can sing, I think it’s best to mention the one flaw that I can’t shake, and that’s the inclusion of Fred the Reindeer. I believe it was the second trailer that featured him a lot and made it seem like he was a secondary character to Max. Truth is, Fred isn’t in the movie for very long. He’s roped in by Grinch, he comes home with him, he sleeps in the bed, like the trailer suggests, and maybe one or two additional scenes with him. Aside from that, he leave pretty soon after. It’s shown that he’s got a family of his own, and when Grinch finds out and lets him go, he doesn’t make a reappearance until the end of the movie, effectively ruining a crucial moment for Grinch. <<<SPOILERS>>> [ He shows up when the Grinch has realized the true meaning of Christmas, and instead of finding the strength of ten grinches to save the sleigh of presents he stole, it’s him, Fred, Fred’s family, and Max, that help save the presents. It’s not the worst change to a beloved classic, but I do feel like it’s lessens Grinch’s revelation and his newfound love of the holiday giving him newfound strength is deadened a bit. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Beyond that, this movie is still pretty fun. I mean, it’s essentially just a feature-length version of the original Boris Karloff with some needless padding. Anyone hoping for something different will likely be disappointed. As for me, who just wanted something better than the live-action version, will be adequately satisfied. I think the Karloff original is still the superior classic, simply in terms of length and faithfulness to source material, but this is far and away easier to digest seeing kids watch and enjoy than the live-action. So as a recommendation… I say it’s not bad to see in theaters, but it’s best saved for a rental. I think both adults and kids can get something out of it, but it’s no replacement for the original cartoon.
My honest rating for THE GRINCH: 4/5
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