Movie Review: “The Grinch”
The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) hates Christmas. For him, it is the absolute worst time of the year and, this close to Christmas, he tries to avoid going into Whoville at all costs. Unfortunately, and through stress eating, he has run out of his supply of food, which was supposed to last him until January. It is not Christmas yet, but is close enough that all of the Whos in Whoville are filled with Christmas cheer.
The Grinch journeys to Whoville, but is so filled with disdain that he decides to steal Christmas from the Whos. He decides he should not be putting up with all of this, so he must take matters into his own hands. During his day in Whoville, The Grinch meets a little girl named Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) who is determined to talk to Santa this year. There is something important that she must talk to him about, and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means trapping the big, jolly, old man.
The Pros & Cons
Cindy-Lou & Whoville (+6pts)
You’re A Sad One (-4pts)
The Grinch & Max (+3pts)
The Plan (-4pts)
Stealing Christmas (+3pts)
Pro: Cindy-Lou & Whoville (+6pts)
I found myself surprised that I liked Cindy-Lou Who in this movie. I felt that her question for Santa was too sweet and cheesy, but I liked that she was a young girl on a mission and I enjoyed how she went about trying to solve her problem. The girl really takes matters into her own hands and it was fun to watch her story. Whoville was also pretty entertaining to see, or more specifically The Grinch in Whoville was pretty entertaining to see.
The movie briefly touches on people who are a little too into the Christmas spirit. Christmas songs on every channel, houses that take it too far with Christmas decorations, and people who get a little too joyful around the holidays. Everyone knows someone who takes their holiday cheer too far and, as a result, this will connect with a lot of the adults in the audience. It was fun to see how The Grinch dealt with these Whos, I just wish we could have gotten more of this in the movie.
Con: You’re A Sad One (-4pts)
This movie did what too many movies try to do and tried to give the main character an origin story. We do not need to know why The Grinch hates Christmas, all we need to know is that he hates Christmas. Instead we get flashbacks to The Grinch’s childhood, so that we can sympathize with him, and it quite honestly spoils the character. They did the same thing in Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and I honestly do not understand the need for the filmmakers to explain this character’s back story. “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch”. That is how the song goes and, while Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas gave an origin story, it also maintained The Grinch’s mean nature. With Illumination’s The Grinch the mean nature is lost.
The filmmakers spent too much time trying to make us understand and sympathize with him. The filmmakers wanted us to see him as lonely and misunderstood, when that is not what the character is (at least, not until the end). The character needs to be mean and have a story arc thAt culminates in the film’s climax. By having us feel bad for him the whole time, the film’s climax loses something. We always thinks he cares, so when his heart grows three sizes, it does not feel justified or impactful. It felt like the filmmakers lost site of what this character needed to be, and the character growth he was supposed to go through.
Pro: The Grinch & Max (+3pts)
The relationship between The Grinch and Max was a joy to watch. This was an area that I honestly knew Illumination would get right. The Grinch loves Max, but he is also The Grinch. He gets annoyed easily, but the only loving thing that brings him any joy is Max. Then there is Max himself. Max actually has a lot of personality in this movie. He gets mad at The Grinch, and has his own bed with a picture of him with The Grinch. It was fun to see so much attitude coming from this character.
Max goes along with everything that The Grinch does, but really just wants to play and spend time with his green buddy. I liked all of the interactions between these two characters, but I would have liked to have seen more focus on this relationship. They both get plenty of screentime together, but I would have liked to see what effect The Grinch’s behavior has on Max, and would have liked to see The Grinch coming to terms with that. The filmmakers could have gone in a different direction, but my point is that it did not seem like the filmmakers wanted to take any risks with these characters. They just played it safe. Nonetheless, these are two characters that are definitely entertaining to see together.
Con: The Plan (-4pts)
I like the whole story that Dr. Seuss created, but I thought the filmmakers did a poor job showing The Grinch planning to steal Christmas. Rather than seeing him tinkering and experimenting, the filmmakers show him drawing string from a model of Whoville to see if it is possible for him to get to every house in time. That is just one example of my issue, but I thought filmmakers decided to focus on the wrong parts of The Grinch’s planning. The Grinch goes ahead and does all the tinkering and experimenting that audiences (or at least I) wanted to see, but it all happens off screen. The filmmakers decided to focus on the more boring elements of the planning, which did not end up providing much comedy.
Pro: Stealing Christmas (+3pts)
Once the story finally gets to The Grinch saving Christmas, the whole thing becomes pretty darn predictable, but it was still entertaining. It was neat to see The Grinch using all his toys to do his Grinch thing. It was silly, and fun, but the filmmakers rushed through it. I obviously do not think it should have been drawn out, but it felt like it went by a little too quickly. Either way, The Grinch stealing Christmas was definitely fun to see done by Illumination. They delivered the climax that I expected to see, but I say that in a good way. It was expected, but it was what the audience wanted, and I think kids will enjoy it.
Con: Typical (-6pts)
While the climax of this movie, stealing Christmas, was predictable in a good way, the entire rest of the movie was predictable in a bad way. There have been two classic versions of this story. Two versions that audiences have loved: the classic cartoon from 1966 and the live-action version starring Jim Carrey from 2000. With this movie, the filmmakers failed to bring any new flavor to the story. They had The Grinch use a drone, which felt like a desperate attempt to modernize the story, but that was the extent of it. We have seen this story done better and we have seen it done better twice. There was not enough originality to this version which will leave the movie feeling stale or boring to a lot of audiences.
Grade: C- (73pts)
The Grinch was moderately entertaining when it was at its best. There was, unfortunately, a few major problems with the story. First and foremost was the fact that this story has been done before, and it has been done better. The filmmakers felt the need to retell a well-known story, but did not feel the need to add anything new to it. The result will be a movie that ends up boring audiences, because they already know how it goes. The story then focuses on the more boring aspects of The Grinch’s planning, while giving an origin story that takes all the steam and interest out of the titular character. Fortunately, this movie was not all bad.
What did the story get right? Cindy-Lou Who was a pleasant surprise for the determination she had in trapping Santa Claus. It was a different spin on this character, which was refreshing to see, her storyline just did not get enough focus to make a huge difference. The relationship between The Grinch and Max was a joy to see and the act of stealing Christmas was an entertaining thing to see, once again. It has its flaws, and while it will bore audiences in some areas, it will keep kids entertained in others.