The Grinch Review
Following The Lorax, Illumination Studios return to Dr. Seuss to remake The Grinch in the mould of their Despicable Me series.Certainly the Dr. Seuss tales are something of an acquired taste, with the unusual and somewhat whimsical humour not appealing to everybody and leaving the subsequent adaptation - across the decades - suffering from similar mixed reactions. Mike Myers had a run at The Cat in the Hat, but Jim Carrey's turn in the live action How the Grinch Stole Christmas was probably the best remembered effort.
Illumination Entertainment - who are best known for their Despicable Me and Minions movies, but who also did Sing and The Secret Life of Pets - previously took a shot at Dr. Seuss with The Lorax, now give The Grinch another go-around. Revisiting the story which was originally made famous on TV with a sixties Christmas special animation, before Carrey's big screen, live action outing swept the Box Office, the studio play it distinctly safe, reimagining the Scrooge-like tale as a green Christmas-themed variant of their Despicable Me prototype.
The studio play it safe, reimagining the Scrooge-like tale as a Christmas-themed variant of their Despicable Me prototype.
For those unfamiliar with the story, it's set in Whoville, where the populace of Whos are preparing for a glorious seasonal celebration; their town looking like the Disney castle at Christmas. Up on the mountainside, however, deep in a cave, there lives a grumpy Grinch who - when he runs out of provisions - is forced to journey to the town to stock up, there finding himself so suffocated by the Christmas spirit that he decides to ruin the festivities, dressing up as Santa to rob every household of its presents and decorations. Meanwhile, young girl Cindy Lou is desperate to make her very personal Christmas wish come true - about making her struggling single mum happy - electing to set a trap so that she can speak to Santa about it in person...
Playing with exactly the same not-quite-bad guy on a long, slow path of redemption by way of grand plan of ultimate villainy scuppered by the interference of sweet young children, is pure Despicable Me, trading in the same beats right down to the very beat of the introduction of Grinch by way of a stomping hip hop remix of the classic You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. A short series of grumpy skits about grumpy clothes and a frustrating alarm clock, as well as a sequence of Grinch wandering the town spoiling everybody's fun (think: Gru popping the kid's balloon) hammers the point home about just what a perpetually foul mood he's in, with his bitterness - latter revelations about the origin of it do come - spilling into a spiteful scheme to rob the entire town of Christmas cheer.
Again, it's a pure Despicable Me scheme; a grand master plan of 'evil' carried out with the use of cool tech and gadgets as well as a few cute and loyal minions.
There's plenty of Christmas spirit here, and it's likely to bedazzle kids, but it also feels instantly forgettable.
There are few moments of inspiration, with Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch on surprisingly restrained form as the titular character, trying to give him some purpose in life, but afforded little to work with beyond a few nice nods to the inevitable melting of his heart that is yet to come. And similarly the young girl playing opposite him gets a more interesting backstory, with Rashida Jones voicing the beleaguered single super-mom who handles her three young children expertly, but not without the eldest noticing the cracks in the seams.
Ultimately, despite some colourful visual panache and a few fun physical comedy moments - which were better envisaged by Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner and almost all spoiled by the trailer - The Grinch plays it far too safe, taking its sweet merry time building to the grand heist that was originally in the very title of the book (so there's little point having this much build-up), before flipping the emotional tables in a heartbeat.
There's plenty of Christmas spirit here, and maybe even a hint of Pixar-esque emotional magic towards the very end, leaving a 90 minute animation which is likely to bedazzle kids (those who don't mind grumpy protagonists) and equally capable of easily entertaining for that duration, but which also feels instantly forgettable immediately afterwards.
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