Thursday, 7 March 2019

The Grinch ★★★☆☆

It’s a familiar tale, but the latest return of The Grinch isn’t a carbon copy of Jim Carrey’s adaption of the Dr Seuss story. Benedict Cumberbatch’s distinctive voice sets the tone as his miserly Grinch decides to wage war against Christmas, with a subtle, sillier take on the miserly green monster who lacks a normal-sized heart. Pharrell Williams fills in as the narrator, following Cumberbatch and his loyal dog Max when they decide to ruin Christmas for everyone in Whoville.

Aimed at a younger audience, the CG-animated caper was an easy cash-grab during the festive season. The film reflects this visually, as the Grinch is soft and clean, fitting the inoffensive nature of the project as a whole. If anything, he’s a bit too cuddly, but it makes for more attractive tie-in toys that won’t scare the little ones away. It also made sense commercially, as it became the highest-grossing holiday film of all-time with a $508.6 million box office return from an outlay of $75 million.

Of course, lessons are learned, and the Grinch’s heart eventually swells to match his improved outlook on life thanks to the help of his new friends. It’s easier to empathize with the Grinch this time around, as he’s given better motivation and backstory in terms of why he hates the holidays in the first place. They had to stretch the poem somehow, but it does work well as a narrative device. Despite that, there’s really nothing new to see here for anyone who’s actually read the poem or seen the film, but it’s also worth remembering that adults aren’t exactly the target demographic. 

The Grinch is a highly polished product that will be eaten up by most children with no complaints. As for everyone else, we’re more likely to find it mildly amusing at best or akin to a dull form of minor torture at worst. There aren’t many layered jokes (a la Toy Story) for multiple ages, but the voice work is believable enough to keep little ones enthralled. Other positives include the animation, with vivid colours and good attention to detail which helps to build a richer world. The score was composed by the legendary Danny Elfman, so it’s no slouch when it comes to pulling at the heartstrings during tense moments.

Nearly 18 years after the live-action version, the retelling of the tale is an inoffensive experience which hits the right notes. If you’re looking for a new film to watch 100’s of times with the kids, you’ll probably end up hating it, but a younger version of me would have no doubt enjoyed it. In the present day, my heart didn’t swell at all, and I had half an eye on the clock throughout the 105 minutes it took for the film to finish.

James Millin-Ashmore

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