The Grinch Review

Ugly and dejected, Illumination Studios have not quite grasped at their Dr. Seuss back catalogue with much sympathy for the eponymous green grouch, nor have they inspired much confidence in their handling of these stories. Cluttered streets of Whoville mark up this empty and shallow animated feature, one that finds the inhabitants obsessed with Christmas. All but one, that is. The classic story of just how The Grinch stole Christmas is a tradition, but Boris Karloff is nowhere to be found. Not even Jim Carrey is lingering around the corner, performing CIA breathing techniques to keep himself calm in that damned green suit. Instead, Benedict Cumberbatch offers his weak American accent to this Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney feature.

What is unsurprising is that, like all Illumination features, The Grinch feels underwhelming. It hits the usual notes of benevolent, unintelligible comedy, attempting to stretch a 40-page book to feature-length. Nowhere in the book from Dr. Seuss is there a scene where The Grinch slides his fingers along a crisp new sleigh. No counterpart character to make up for the lack of reindeer. Max is side-lined, an odd quibble to have but a notable one nonetheless. “We will not be… stopped,” Cumberbatch says as he, quite literally, stops. The Grinch is either a film for very young kids or very stupid adults. Either way, it’s a big enough audience for a film with such simplistic and basic animation.

As polished as it looks, there is no heart and soul to this style. Illumination has always had that issue. Sing looks emotionless, and Despicable Me, if it were not for the now-iconic, middle-aged Minion icons, would have faded into the memory banks. What keeps The Grinch relevant is the timelessness of its story and the simplicity of it. Someone who wishes to steal Christmas, but forgets the real heart of Christmas is in family. It isn’t, but it is nice to see The Grinch believes so. As his heart grows and he realises the true spirit of Christmas is not theft and hatred, it is hard to take Cumberbatch all that seriously. His vocal range does not brandish the quality necessary for such a story, and even then the story is a universal truth. It is known now, all of it. Physics-defying moments of a sleigh going over a cliffside, but being dragged back up by a dog and his mammoth cronies. Nonsense animation at its finest, but The Grinch never has a footing in anything close to reality.

Nothing but Christmas jeers for this dull little feature. Contemporary pop culture references are frequent, but the reimagining of that classic Grinch-oriented track is unbelievably dull. The rest of the film is too. It’s not just sound and sight that make The Grinch a snoozefest, but the lack of charisma from Cumberbatch in the lead role. Rashida Jones and Angela Lansbury are fine enough, but they are never going to inspire much entertainment when the real core, that mean, titular character, is so uninspired and wasted. Little humour, less effort, The Grinch is another adaptation of the fine Seuss classic, and not a good one. Mosier and Cheney are the real mean ones for this Christmas feature.

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