Your Heart Will Grow Three Times Bigger!
DIRECTED BY YARROW CHENEY AND SCOTT MOSIER/2018
The Grinch (2018) is the eighth animated feature by Illumination, the outfit known for the Despicable Me and Minions series, as well as The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. The co-director of the Secret Life of Pets, Yarrow Cheney, has now headed up this film, along with co-director Scott Mosier, in his first full-length film as a director. Like How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) before it, The Grinch (2018) is also based on Dr. Seuss’ beloved book that continues to delight audiences of all ages. The question we must ask is whether after 52 years, do we need a third version of the same story? The answer is a decidedly mixed bag.
He’s always been a mean one, that Mr. Grinch, but with the 2018 version, he is decidedly less mean, and just a tad grouchy instead. We do get a slight back story to explain the root of his hatred of Christmas and everyone’s Christmas cheer, much like we did in the live-action version starring Jim Carrey as the titular character. With the live-action film, the Grinch’s hatred goes back to his embarrassment as a child in front of the Who he loved. This embarrassment was, of course, at the hands of his arch nemesis, the mayor of Whoville. For the new Grinch, now played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the root of his problem is a more lonely backstory, without the embarrassment. While this backstory makes sense, the film does not take the time to develop it fully, mostly seeking to keep things on a feel-good and upbeat note throughout.
If one thing can be said about The Grinch (2018), it is that it is much funnier than the 1966 animated television special, as it intentionally inserts many more jokes throughout the film. The original animated version, in contrast, sought to simply be a faithful recreation of the book. Now, we have a film that still hits all of the main beats of Dr. Seuss’ classic story, but more or less becomes its own thing as well. The colors are brighter, and computer animation replaces Chuck Jones’ hand-drawn animation, but despite this, and other story changes, many things remain the same.
The Grinch still lives high above Whoville with his faithful canine companion, Max. Down below the the town is a much more diverse Whoville, looking to make this Christmas 3x bigger, brighter, and with even more singing! The most cheerful is Bricklebaum (voiced by Kenan Thompson), with his over-the-top lights strewn all over his house in such a way that makes Clark Griswold look like an amateur. He loves seeing the Grinch when he comes down from his mountain home to shop for food in Whoville.
Across town is the constantly cheerful, yet stretched thin Donna Lou Who (Rashida Jones), a single mom of three, including her oldest daughter, the always cute and loved character, Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely). Cindy sees how her mom works all night, only to come home where she staves off sleep to care for her family. Cindy, defies the Grinch’s long-held belief that Christmas is simply a holiday of greed. Will her kind heart be able to endure the diabolical plan the Grinch will launch to steal Christmas, down to the last light bulb?
Some new characters join the fun, including an overweight reindeer named Fred, as well as a goat who lets out a blood-curdling scream instead of the typical “Ba-aaa”. Angela Lansbury voices the mayor of Whoville, and taking over as the Narrator is recording artist Pharrell Williams, who has composed for many of the other Illumination films, including Despicable Me‘s smash hit “Happy”.
The Grinch, while not mean, certainly continues to be a fun-type of cranky. His relationship with Max is still a heart-warming thing, as much as the Grinch might not want to admit his love for his faithful, furry friend. One great thing this film brings to the world of the Grinch is a bunch of fun, new gadgets that would feel at home in the pages of Dr. Seuss’ classic story. Here, they come alive both in the pre-planning stages and for the fun house-to-house thievery the Grinch sets out to accomplish on this particular Christmas Eve. Fred is also a fun twist in the classic story that brings more feel-good moments.
The Grinch (2018) may focus more on laughs than it does developing the Grinch’s transformation from dastardly devil to beloved member of the community, but it has more than enough heart to steal the box office this holiday season, and still help yours grow 3x bigger. Whatever qualms one might have, it still flows with Dr. Seuss’ original vision, and provides a fun, heartwarming experience that will appeal to both the young and the old alike. The only ones who might not have fun watching The Grinch (2018), are those whose hearts are 3x too small.