When I think about the Grinch, I always reflect back on Seuss’ book, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. It was a favorite of mine growing up and again as a teacher, reading books to my first graders. There are very few children, I imagine, who haven’t heard the story and don’t love it because it is about love, joy, the Christmas Spirit and redemption. I know it always filled my heart with joy hearing the story. There have been a couple film versions so I wondered how this newest addition would hold up. While I love Benedict Cumberbatch, I did question whether it would retain the Seuss style I love and how well it would capture the book and yet, bring something new to bring audiences to the theater. My questions were answered by a movie that has all of that Seussian charm, a unexpected twist on the familiar story, plenty of heart and a metric ton of comedy.
This version, “The Grinch” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch. Anyone familiar with the story knows the Grinch hates Christmas so the beginning is not unexpected as he throws items at his alarm clock to silence the Christmas music coming from the radio as the narrator (Pharrell Williams) provides details via rhyme. As he emerges, his faithful dog Max serving him coffee and breakfast, he soon finds out he is out of food and must make a trip to town. Along the way, we meet the Who’s of Whoville, Cindy Lou (Cameron Seely), her mother Donna (Rashida Jones), the Mayor (Angela Lansbury), Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson) who is convinced Grinch is his friend, and mad caroler gangs who chase Grinch as he tries to get to the grocery store. Honestly, if I had gangs of carolers chasing me through town, singing Christmas songs, I’d probably take a dislike to Christmas too, but Grinch has other reasons. Once he learns that the town plans to make the event three times bigger this year, he decides to enact a plan to steal Christmas.
While Grinch is busy, we also meet Cindy Lou who also has a plan for Christmas which she works on with her group of Whoville friends. Cindy plans to find Santa and ask him for a special wish to thank her hard working mom but it soon becomes clear that if Cindy gets succeeds, she will intersect with the Grinch. If she does, will she blow his cover or will the Grinch succeed in stealing Christmas this year?
This version of The Grinch resonates with me much more than the 2000 version. I like Jim Carrey but this works better for me for several reasons. First, we have the animation. The movie just works better with animation because we get a closer version to the book, with characters that embody that winsome flavor of all the Seuss books. They look like Whovians, along with the buildings and the Christmas decorations. Not being live, they can also do some over the top type decorations and skits that just wouldn’t work in a live action film. I love the characters, they way they look and I like the way Grinch is animated as well. He looks much closer to the books and that adds depth to the movie.
The next reason I enjoyed this movie is the comedy. The humor is acerbic, sarcastic but also downright silly at times. While Grinch is searching for reindeer to pull his sleigh, he randomly collects a goat that honks like an ocean liner. When he does locate a reindeer, Max, his dog and Fred the reindeer end up sleeping in his bed using puppy eyes. It is one of the funniest bits in the movie but this film allows others to be funny too. Max is hilarious as he works to please Grinch. Cindy is hilarious planning with her friends how to get to Santa and Brinklebaum gets in a few good jokes as well. The humor had the children in the audience laughing the entire time.
The other aspect to why I liked this film, they managed to change the story, add a new element without losing the very lovable charm of the book. In the book, Cindy gets no active part except at the end. That isn’t the case in this movie. Cindy is active and she is no longer the perfect sweet child. She is kind and big hearted, thinking of her mother and her family but she isn’t as angelic, styled much more like a real child and I think children will connect to that much better than the original version. Her actions change up the story and create interactions with Grinch that make this story a unique version.
In addition to all this, I felt that keeping the narration in rhyme form allowed the story to be true to the book. It captured the best aspects of the story, that Christmas spirit and joy isn’t about presents and decorations but about family and love, being kind and caring. Christmas is about spending time with our loved ones and this movie brought all those heartwarming moments to the screen.
It was what I expected in the story. You can’t really have a story about The Grinch and change the narrative that much. This ultimately ends up in a film that is predictable and has a lot of expected elements, including the music in the movie. But the changes made to the plot with the comedy elements gave it a new, distinct feel while the animation and themes maintain that Seussian flavor.
If you have children, they will love this movie. Kids were laughing throughout the film and parents will like it as well. The characters are easy to fall in love with, including The Grinch and Max. Even in his darkest moments, we can empathize. I’m sure some adults don’t always love the overdone Christmas decorations each year and would like to steal a little bit away from time to time. Those overtones along with the humor and animation will keep audiences loving this movie. I know I was enthralled and charmed.
Rating: 4 out of 5 goats.
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