By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” Those immortal lyrics will be forever sung every holiday season. Since 1957, when Dr. Seuss published his story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, this beloved/reviled sourpuss character would eventually become a Christmas icon. This fate was sealed when animation filmmakers Chuck Jones and Ben Washam adapted the story for a television special. For several generations of children, television’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas was the only version of this story outside of Seuss’ book. That is, until director Ron Howard and Imagine Entertainment adapted a live action version for the big screen in 2000.Well, eighteen years have passed and yet another, more modern, animated version of The Grinch’s story is in theaters. Though I appreciate that this take maintains the important message of the original story and gives the tale a more progressive spin, I feel that the meanness of the Grinch character gets watered down substantially, making the turning point of the story rather weak. Even casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the character doesn’t help make this take on the character any more dynamic. Though not terrible, with a few bright spots here and there, this year’s version of the Grinch story comes across as another unnecessary remake with very little to add to the mythos.
Every year the happy people of Whoville celebrate Christmas with much aplomb and excitement. Colorful decorations envelop every building and home, and a large Christmas tree helps unite the town in a joyful celebration of songs and giving. However, only one citizen of Whoville despises this season. Living in isolation at the top of a cliff, the sour and bitter Grinch (Cumberbatch) grumpily refuses to celebrate Christmas and grows increasing frustrated and jealous of the townspeople who seem to have much happier lives. When The Grinch can no longer take the jubilation and gaiety of his neighbors, he decides to take matters in his own hands and attempts to put an end to Christmas once and for all.
With an adapted screenplay by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow, directors Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney simply don’t have the right material to make this version of the story rise above others that have preceded it. Though probably a bit more child friendly than Ron Howard’s take, this Grinch lacks way too much bite. The protagonist of this adaptation comes across as depressed rather than nasty or angry. He’s not a mean one, but, rather, a more pathetic one than anything. This Grinch would find a kindred spirit in Eeyore rather than any other version of the character. The movie does have its funny and charming moments, and the filmmakers give the Cindy Lou Who character a more progressive motivation, but all of these admirable touches are not enough to save what is a meandering and often bland movie.
The movie can boast a great voice cast, but most of these talents don’t have any characters that are all that interesting. Cumberbatch does his best despite the weak material. Rashida Jones is fine as Cindy Lou Who’s mother Donna, but again is held back by the limitations of the script. On a more positive side, SNL’s Kenan Thompson has a more vibrant and enjoyable character to portray in the movie. Thompson brings much energy and comic timing to his character Bricklebaum, a resident of Whoville who relishes the Christmas season and always celebrates it with much enthusiasm and excitement. Cameron Seely also brings much glee and heart to her character Cindy Lou Who, a steadfast young lady who seems to have a better understanding of the meaning of Christmas better than anyone else. Pharrell Williams serves as the narrator of the film, bringing with him a more modern style. However, his casting feels like another wasted opportunity, as the filmmakers don’t have have him do anything striking or exciting.
Now I know most of these gripes and critiques will matter very little to young children enticed to see this movie by television promos. I’m just saying that adults should be prepared for another needless movie remake when there are other better adaptations of the story available. The better scenario would be for parents to sit down with their children in front of the TV and watch the 1966 television special. Honestly, that is the best and most direct translation of the Dr. Seuss story. The best case scenario would be to simply cuddle or huddle together and read the original book. It is short, to the point, and could be an even better bonding experience for parents and their kids. In my opinion, the latest adaptation of the Grinch story is an utter waste of time and money.