Illumination’s Dr.Seuss’ The Grinch is an enjoyable holiday feature, yet as this is the third occasion the infamous How The Grinch Stole Christmas property (including the tv version) has been adapted, the newest version comes off as an entirely unnecessary remake.
Dr.Seuss’ The Grinch marks the directorial debut for Scott Mosier, a long time Kevin Smith collaborator, and for his first film it’s an average beginning. He is also supported by long time Illumination collaborator/director Yarrow Cheney, and similar to Cheney’s previous effort on the silver screen, it manages to be underwhelming. The animation will be discussed in detail down below, but here I want to talk about pacing and the overall appeal of the animation. This marks the second big screen adaptation of Dr.Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas children’s book, and that being so makes it difficult to make it something new or refreshing for fans of the other entries. Unfortunately the directors have eliminated that concern by ignoring it completely, adding an Illumination style gag to make up for time, and extended the pace to an unneeded length. 86 minutes may seem short, but let’s remember that this film is an adaptation of a 69 page illustrated book. This is a similar issue with the 2000 release, but that’s neither here nor there, as this newest entry refuses to conquer the problems with the previous adaptation and instead expand and change on a few aspects. Changes include making it a slightly shorter version of the exact same film, with a large part of the outrageous nature of the previous film being taken away by the boring animation (See Effects). In a large way, it’s a disappointment for Mosier’s directorial debut, and even though financially it will make money for the studio, overall The Grinch is a creatively bankrupt film with easily the most lackluster direction among the Illumination catalog (and that includes Minions).
After a haunting experience as a young child during the holiday season, The Grinch loathes everything to do with Christmas, and as the current year’s holiday looms over him he finally snaps - deciding to end Christmas once and for all. The script is incredibly similar to the other adaptations. Take out a couple of set pieces used for humor, match the pacing, and you’ve got an almost identical film. The Grinch’s bland writing is another major let down for the film as it proves once again that this remake should have never been made. The format of the plot goes as follows: The Grinch is not looking forward to Christmas. The Grinch goes to Whoville to resupply on groceries. The Grinch finds out Christmas is going to be 3x bigger this year. And finally The Grinch creates his villainous plan. We all know the plan by now I’d hope. The film wastes time in between The Grinch's main storyline with Cindy Lou Who, who just wants to mail her letter to Santa and it spoils the pacing to an unreasonable degree...
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Cindy Lou Who has never been a great character in any of the Dr.Seuss adaptations, but this is incredibly true in Illumination’s attempt. Cindy is voiced by an actual little girl, and the same goes with her child friends. Their voices do not match the flow of the remainder of the film, and their voices (especially Cindy Lou’s) sounds like the children are reading hastily off of a script’s page. Her story appears dull in a majority of the gaps of the major storyline and they rightfully so don’t work while coming off as a silly attempt to expand the runtime of this feature film. This film does add a few new characters to the plot, which adds a few guilty pleasure occasions for myself. Most notably so with Kenan Thompson’s neighborly Mr. Bricklebaum, who lightens up any scene he’s in. But now onto the star of the film, the one you’ve been waiting for, the person who took over the role from Jim Carrey now close to 19 years later... Benedict Cumberbatch, how did he do? The answer is easy, he is undoubtedly the best part of the film. Cumberbatch’s performance outweighs everyone else’s by a distance and sadly neither the plot nor the animation can keep up with his enthusiasm. Carrey versus Cumberbatch is much more of an internal battle, as they are both phenomenal in the role. However, I believe in my heart that Carrey surpasses Cumberbatch just by a hair. No matter though, Cumberbatch’s voice acting talents can’t save this film from going to the bargain bin.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
In a similar case to that of the animation category, when placed in comparison to the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas or the Live Action adaptation, the soundtrack seems mild and less outright holiday cheery when a score for this feature needs to be over the top and vibrant with holiday cheer. Once again, it’s not a bad score by any means, it’s just an underwhelming one. However, what cannot be forgiven is the absolutely disrespectful reinvention of the iconic Thurl Ravenscroft You’re a Mean One, Mr.Grinch, with a horrendous Tyler the Creator version of the single. It almost deserves the worst response possible for that reason alone, although the rest of the score redeems this awful rendition of the song enough.
It’s an unfortunate circumstance of the time, but I immediately compared the animation to others that exist. It seems only fair to compare it to other Illumination animated features that have come and gone throughout the years and the truth is, this animation isn’t outstanding. With a story coming from a Dr.Seuss book, I feel that you should go big or go home and that was the biggest issue with another Seuss adaptation, The Lorax. I can’t gain a sense in the animation just how crazy the Whos In Whoville are about Christmas. That’s not to say that it’s not great animation within, because there is, it just doesn’t come off as elaborate as it should, especially when compared to the Jim Carrey Live Action adaptation from 2000 - which really went for it. Technically the film is sound, and nothing really stands out in a bad way, it’s just overall disappointing when in comparison to films like Despicable Me or The Secret Life of Pets.
Dr.Seuss’ The Grinch is an entirely unnecessary retelling of the exact same story we’ve gotten twice before. A short storybook never needed to be adapted into a feature length film, but somehow Carrey’s charisma pulled his version through. Cumberbatch, although fantastic in the role, just can’t make this rehash shine any brighter than it deserves to. With weak side characters, a less than satisfactory approach at The Grinch’s hatred toward Christmas, and increasingly silly gags, the film somehow still manages to be entertaining, just not enough to cause anyone to go out of their way to see this reinvention of a holiday classic.