Review: ‘The Grinch’ appreciates and builds up from its roots Special

Posted Nov 9, 2018 by Sarah Gopaul
‘The Grinch’ delivers an update to Dr. Seuss’ classic tale by embracing the spirit of the original and adding a couple of new elements to freshen it up.
A scene from  The Grinch
A scene from 'The Grinch'
Universal Studios
It seems like one of the simplest ways to capitalize on the holidays is recycle/reimagine a classic tale for a contemporary audience. Granted, many of the most beloved Christmas cartoons are more than half-a-century old — but their age doesn’t make them any less endearing or enjoyable. Nonetheless, there is an unexplainable and explicit need to remake these specials using modern techniques and padded storylines. The latest to get this treatment (for the second time) is Dr. Seuss’ own green grouch, who despises merry occasions and happy people. The Grinch is now a feature-length animation with some extra plot.
Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) lives high up in the mountains, isolated from everyone and everything except his faithful dog, Max. Forced to venture down to Whoville in mid-December, he is assaulted by Christmas cheer and vows to rid the townsfolk of their merriment. Using his talents as an inventor and recruiting a dim reindeer named Fred, Grinch devises a plan to be the anti-Santa Claus and steal Christmas in a single night. Meanwhile, down in Whoville, Cindy Lou (Cameron Seely) is desperate for a face-to-face chat with St. Nick so she can make a special present request.
Rather than just assuming the Grinch is inherently mean, the film reaches back into his childhood to find a little boy who was lonely on Christmas and resented everyone who was able to celebrate with their families. Apparently this is the leading cause of his heart being two sizes too small. Since the story begins nearly a week before the big day, there’s a lot of time to fill with planning and rehearsing. In the meantime, audiences also get to know Cindy Lou, her twin infant brothers and her exhausted single mom, Donna (Rashida Jones). Alongside her best friend, Groopert (Tristan O'Hare), she formulates a plan to trap the jolly old guy so she can deliver her wish in-person. There’s also Mr. Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), who is literally the happiest person in Whoville, and consequently Grinch’s worst enemy (in his miserable eyes at least).
Nonetheless, the core of the story remains the same with a narrator (Pharrell Williams) delivering the classic rhymes with a few added but fitting lines to accommodate the additional story. Unlike the live-action version, this newly animated edition shares a lot of similarities with the original, which makes it more palatable. Although the only song to be completely carried forward into the narrative is “Welcome Christmas,” the traditional “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” is present via an instrumental rendition that plays over appropriate scenes.
While the concise, heartwarming 1966 TV special featuring Boris Karloff remains the best version against which all others must be measured, this extended update retains much of the charm and delightfulness of its predecessor. Moreover, what it does add is still sweet and in the spirit of the original narrative. Thus, Illumination combines its fondness for adorable creatures with a talent for revitalizing a classic story.
Directors: Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely and Rashida Jones