Directed by: Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier
Premise: An animated adaptation of the book by Dr. Seuss. The Grinch (voice of
Benedict Cumberbatch) despises Christmas and the Whos of Whoville. He plots to steal all of Whoville’s holiday decorations, gifts, and treats.
What Works: In purely visual terms, 2018’s The Grinch is one of the better adaptations of Dr. Seuss’ work. The Grinch comes from Illumination Entertainment, the animation studio that previously produced the 2012 adaption of The Lorax. Like that film, The Grinch has a look that simulates the classic illustrations of Dr. Seuss’ books. That is true of the characters but also the environments and the props. Whoville and the Grinch’s lair have a fun inventiveness and the movie successfully combines cartoonish physical comedy with a tactile visual texture.
What Doesn’t: The 2018 version of The Grinch owes a lot to the classic 1966 television special but also to the 2000 live action film. In fact, this version cribs so much from its predecessors that very little of the 2018 Grinch movie feels original. The new version adapts some of the musical cues of the 1966 special, generally doing them less well, and many of the narrative embellishments are copied from the live action feature. The filmmakers bring nothing new to the material and there is no reason for this movie to exist. Furthermore, the filmmakers don’t deliver on the soulfulness that made Dr. Seuss’ original story so memorable. The frantic style of the action casts out any emotional resonance and The Grinch doesn’t deliver in any of the key emotional moments. This is the kind of remake that exists simply to exploit an intellectual property. There is an inherent problem with making a feature-length version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The beauty of Dr. Seuss’ short story is in its simplicity. The 2018 film finds a few ways of expanding the material, mostly by copying the 2000 version, but unlike the live action Grinch film there is nothing really added to the story. Whatever its other faults, the 2000 version added a critique of the materialism of Christmas and integrated it into the story in a way that enhanced the existing themes. The new movie does none of that and even at eighty-six minutes this Grinch feels overlong.
Bottom Line: The Grinch is a less a work of cinematic art than it is a cynically produced corporate product. Like the Seuss-inspired artwork sold at the gallery in Chicago, this is a knockoff that exploits an artist and cheapens his work.
Episode: #728 (December 9, 2018)