After 1966’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and 2000’s “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” we now have 2018’s “The Grinch” (I assume the next reboot will be titled “Gri”). Illumination Studios continues being the C grade Disney Strudios, adapting the Dr. Seuss tale if, for no other reason, than to have their own holiday title out for the market and appeal to a younger audience. There’s not a lot of reason for this adaptation, as Illumination doesn’t offer a new twist on The Grinch. Except for obviously omitting “Christmas” from the title, “The Grinch” is an amalgam of Ron Howard’s live action movie, and the original Chuck Jones short movie–except bland.
The Grinch lives in solitude with his dog Max on the top of the mountain looking down at Whoville. As the people of Whoville prepare for Christmas festivities, The Grinch decides once and for all to take away their Christmas and devise a plan to take away everything they love about the holiday. With his own brand of gadget and Max, he schemes for the ultimate payback. Meanwhile, Cindy-Lou Who wants to pay her mother back by asking Santa Claus for a gift for her, and she and her friends plan to do so by trapping Santa, meeting him face to face, and asking for her heartfelt favor.
“The Grinch” clocks in at a merciful eighty minutes and is packed to the brim with filler and sub-plots that go nowhere. The writers seem hell bent on reaching the ninety minute mark, rather than submit to what is obviously a tale that can be told in (at most) forty five minutes. There are characters like Kenan Thompson’s Mr. Bricklebaum that are introduced that serve no purpose to the overall narrative, and there is the obvious pandering to the younger audience. In place of Boris Karloff narrating there’s… Pharrell Williams? Williams, for all his music credibility, can barely narrate with enough conviction to suck audiences in. The writers also work hard to keep The Grinch from being… The Grinch, a main character that’s supposed to be outright mean.
There’s a whole back story about him never being able to celebrate with the Whos during Christmas as a child, as well as his overall approach to Christmas which is less menacing and more mildly annoyed. There’s even a whole pointless sub-plot involving a giant reindeer that’s included for the sole purpose of making Max a willing participant in the Grinch’s grand plan, rather than a poor animal he forced in to helping him. There’s also not a lot of focus on the bigger picture of Christmas, giving the Grinch, and even the audience, a lot of reason to hate the holiday. One instance even finds him being chased by a group of carolers forcing their song down his throat. There’s even a moment where he destroys a clock radio as it blares nothing but Christmas songs.
It’s tough to jeer a character I can wholly relate to. Benedict Cumberbatch is almost unrecognizable as the voice of The Grinch, a shame since they could very well have taken advantage of his accent. There’s also Rashida Jones who doesn’t get to do much at all. “The Grinch” is a solid twenty minute set up, forty minutes of aimless events, and then another fifteen minutes of a climax that would have been immensely gut wrenching in a much better movie. “The Grinch” is just another remix of Dr. Seuss’ book that attempts to modernize the narrative with zero intention toward creativity or an engaging experience. Truthfully, you could do so much worse in the realm of Christmas films, however I’d be hard pressed to recommend this to anyone.