The hairy green creature that is The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) has despised Christmas for as long as he can remember. Unfortunately, his home is atop a mountain that looks over Whoville, a town which absolutely adores the season. The Grinch can’t stand the jolliness and festivity of it any longer - especially when he learns the citizens are planning to make the holiday three times bigger. This year, with his trusty canine companion Max in tow, The Grinch is going to steal Christmas.
Like the 1966 TV movie and live-action Jim Carrey-starrer that came before it, the latest take on Dr. Seuss’ ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ stays faithful to the source. Many of the lines of the narrator, Pharrell Williams, whose warm, gentle vocals fit neatly into the storyteller role, come directly from Seuss. Of course the 1957 book is a classic for a reason, and as with previous adaptations, the latest ‘The Grinch’ will leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling that you just can’t shake.
Benedict Cumberbatch previously animated characters with his voice in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Penguins of Madagascar.’ He’s also due to play the dastardly Shere Khan in Andy Serkis’ ‘Mowgli’ movie. It’s a talent that’s well-established, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Other fun additions lending their voices include Kenan Thompson as Bricklebaum, the Grinch’s enthusiastic neighbour who is convinced that they’re best friends, as well as Angela Lansbury as the Mayor of Whosville, and Rashida Jones as Donna, Cindy Lou’s hard-working mammy. But the characters that steal the scene are the ones that don’t speak at all – good boy Max and a bulky reindeer named Fred.
Compared to previous iterations, Cumberbatch’s Grinch is definitely less evil, though he remains grinchy. It suits the medium and target audience well, given this is an animation geared primarily towards children. Unlike Carrey’s Grinch, who was often quite mean to Max, the new version is tenderer towards animals, though the versions of the character share in common a sense of glee in being mean to the Whos of Whoville for no reason whatsoever. ‘The Grinch’ also takes inspiration from the Carrey version in its extension of the Cindy Lou character, which helps pad out the running time.
As with previous Illumination features – the studio renowned for ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘Minions’ (fans will be happy to see a short starring the yellow monstrosities precede ‘The Grinch’), but had great success with ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ and ‘Sing’ as well – the animation is cute and appealing. In terms of quality, it’s their best since Gru’s debut.
The character’s reason for disliking the season is simplified for kids; the live-action take was definitely more interesting. Still, from the opening scene, ‘The Grinch’ is so colourful and celebratory in tone that it definitely gets you in the mood for Christmas. Moreover, it is full of gags that will crack up both young and mature audiences, and so full of joy and warmth that it will touch even the Grinch-iest of hearts.