Skip to main content

The Grinch in a Cinch I Can Stand Not an Inch


Hollywood really seems to hate Dr. Seuss. Beginning with the first live-action adaptation of one of his classic stories, the 2000 Ron Howard directed Jim Carrey mess How the Grinch Stole Christmas?, Hollywood has consistently demonstrated a fundamental inability to respect Dr. Seuss and give his stories even a half-decent film treatment. Chuck Jones proved fifty-two years ago how the animation format was the best way to translate Seuss’ stories, but even in that format, versions of Horton Hears a Who and The Lorax have been dreadful. And now that same studio Illumination is delivering their take on The Grinch, one that like the Ron Howard movie before it, seems unaware of the irony of excessively promoting a story about how Christmas means more than material things while merchandising the hell out of that story.
But even putting its obnoxious marketing aside, The Grinch is one of the worst movies I’ve sat through this year. Its’ mostly book-accurate visual aesthetic and retention of the “Welcome Christmas” song from the ‘66 film are really the only good things that can be said about this movie. Everything else is an abysmal failure.
We all know the story: “Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just North of Whoville, did not.” And so he plots to steal Christmas by dressing up as Santa and taking all the towns’ presents and ornaments on Christmas Eve. But it doesn’t turn out as he expected. To pad out the runtime this version, like the last, adds a few pointless subplots and banal comedy routines.
There are numerous reasons this is a terrible movie, but let’s start with the title character. In the movies’ most baffling choice, Illumination cast Benedict Cumberbatch, who has a perfect voice for the part, but instead made him do a strange nasally American accent. However it does match their interpretation of the Grinch. This movie suffers a lot of the same problems as the 2000 version and chief among them is the portrayal of the Grinch as not so much mean and malicious, as just a lonely curmudgeon with a penchant for immaturity. The goal in this appears to be to make him more relatable, but the Grinch’s loathsome nature is his defining attribute and is crucial to the ultimate effect of the story. Where many stories do require sympathetic protagonists and visible growth, How the Grinch Stole Christmas? is an exception. It works because the character change is spontaneous -because it’s a realization rather than a gradual self-examination, illustrating how even the most hateful of souls have it in them to be moved by pure warmth of spirit. In this movie, not only is he no longer the outcast, making regular visits into Whoville, and is actually kind to his dog Max, but he’s given an asinine tragic backstory to explain a hatred that’s unbelievably unnecessary. The movie also plays into that internet nonsense about the Grinch not actually hating Christmas, just being antisocial. It all detracts from the inspirational impact of his change of heart, and even forgetting the original story, it doesn’t make him interesting in the least.
One of the subplots involves the Grinch tracking down and finding a reindeer and the brief adoption of a particularly large one into his plan. Another revolves around Cindy Lou Who (the only other named character from the book) organizing her own plan with her friends to trap Santa so she can tell him her Christmas wish. And it’s as virtuous as it is brazenly meaningless and contrived, involving concerns about her mother (Rashida Jones) that barely register. More than this though, the kids in the movie appear to be written by people who’ve never met a kid and think this is how they behave. They’re the most generic, pandering examples of what Hollywood believes children relate to, and sometimes feel twenty years out of date. The same could be said for this movies’ humour which tends easy and juvenile much too often. Oh, and once again repeating a mistake from 2000 film, arguably the most important moment is botched by showing the Whos reacting to the “stolen Christmas” with despair before being reminded of what’s really important. It’s vital to the story’s emotional core that the Whos simply don’t care one iota about material things, and that the very first thing the Grinch witnesses when morning comes is their joyful singing. But of course this a wholly manipulative movie and doesn’t hide it well. Every emotion is false.
Where The Grinch insults Dr. Seuss more directly is in the way it distorts his writing. The narration, provided by Pharrell Williams, is way too frequent; but more unfortunate is that some of the most famous and most important verses are missing to be replaced by new and often very poor ones -which is tantamount to sacrilege. Additionally, while mindful enough to leave “Welcome Christmas” alone, the movie remixes “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”, and it’s pretty horrible.
The Grinch is now the second variation to completely miss the point of Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic. On its own it’s not a movie saying anything about Christmas really, just reinforcing some half-hearted morals found in a slew of better kids’ movies without any tenable convictions behind them, shoved in between dreary attempts at comedy and efforts to make the Grinch look cool on his Christmas raid. What’s so angering about it though is that does have (at least part of) the How the Grinch Stole Christmas? name, easily the greatest Christmas story for children. And there were a lot of children at the theatre when I saw this and it’s depressing to think it may be their first introduction to this story.
For that, The Grinch is utterly rotten and I sincerely hope it’s the last we see of Dr. Seuss on the big screen.

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jordan_D_Bosch

Popular posts from this blog

2001 at 50: What’s so Special about Kubrick’s Space Odyssey

“The cosmic ballet goes on.” These words were uttered by Leonard Nimoy in “Marge vs. the Monorail”, a 1993 episode of The Simpsons. Though intended as a joke, it's a quote that actually is relevant to the legacy and frequent re-evaluation of 2001: A Space Odyssey, fifty years after it’s original release in April of 1968. Indeed, many have rightly defined the moon docking sequence set to Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube as an elegant ballet in the stars. I’m far from the only movie enthusiast who considers Stanley Kubrick’s operatic masterpiece as the pinnacle of science-fiction film. If you look at any list or any book of the greatest movies, you’ll usually find 2001 at the top (alphabetically, but still). Spielberg called it the “Big Bang” of his filmmaking generation, Scorsese lists it among his favourite films, as did Federico Fellini; and directors like Ridley Scott, Alfonso Cuarón, William Friedkin, Terry Gilliam, James Cameron, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, George Lucas, Darren A…

An Infinity in the Making

Avengers: Infinity War is the best definition of a movie event. No less than eighteen movies, five independent movie series have led up to it. It’s way more than your average summer blockbuster, it’s the climax of a vast interconnected universe that’s been running now for ten years. Marvel couldn’t have picked better people to helm this movie either, as Joe and Anthony Russo have already directed two of the best movies the MCU has offered. And in a number of ways this film meets expectations; in others though, it does fall short. The alien warlord Thanos (Josh Brolin) finally begins his quest for the Infinity Stones, powerful objects that together could cause destruction and manipulation on a galactic level. Adding them to his giant gauntlet, he scourges worlds and civilizations for them, coming into contact with the heroes both on Earth and elsewhere in the galaxy. So each of these heroes we’ve been introduced to over the last decade (minus Ant-Man) have to band together in an effort …

The Top Ten Best Dickens Movies

Today is the 206th birthday of Charles Dickens and I know you’re all celebrating; maybe not by reading one of his novels or stories (after all, they can be very long), but by watching one of the dozens of films made based on his works. So I decided to figure out which ones were the best; which films adapted their stories the most loyally, were closest in spirit, and were just the most skilfully made. It must be made clear though that many of the more well-known Dickens adaptations are miniseries, because the British love making miniseries’ out of every successful book in English literature. Thus you’ll find no mention of the acclaimed BBC versions of Nicholas Nickleby or Little Dorrit on here (though I will highly recommend 2005’s incredible Bleak House series). With that, here are the Top Ten Dickens Movies:
10.Oliver Twist (2005) -I’m not going to pretend that Roman Polanski’s 2005 rendition of the Parish Boy’s Progress isn’t riddled with problems -not the least of which is the fact …