The Grinch is a lovable anti-hero compared to his successors in Illumination’s rendition of the classic Christmas film. The film opened in cinemas on November 9th and will run over the Christmas period. It was animated in France by Illumination Mac Gruff and released worldwide by Universal Pictures.
The film opens with a reveal shot of the quirky town of Whoville as the Narrator (Pharrell Williams) introduces us to the ever joyful Whos as they prepare for the holidays in the week leading up to Christmas. The whole town is full of Christmas spirit much to the exasperation of The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch), a solitary green figure who lives at the top of Mount Crumpit north of Whoville.
We first meet The Grinch as he is preparing for hibernation to avoid the Christmas period when he discovers he has eaten his way through his food stockpile. Much to his chagrin, he is forced to venture into Whoville with his dog Max (Frank Welker) to replenish his supplies where he is chased in a somewhat zombie apocalyptic style by a number of Who carollers before finding safety inside a supermarket.
In another part of town, we meet Donna Lou (Rashida Jones) who runs to catch her bus home after working a night shift. At home, her work continues as a single mother raising her three children, daughter Cindy Lou (Cameron Seely) and twin boys Buster and Bean. Cindy Lou’s mission throughout the film is to request a very important wish from Santa Claus – her mother’s happiness.
After his traumatic visit to Whoville and bumping into Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson) who tells him of the Mayor’s (Angela Lansbury) plan to make Christmas three times bigger this year, The Grinch returns to his cave with a new plan – to become Santa Claus and end Christmas once and for all.
Benedict Cumberbatch portrays a more sympathetic version of The Grinch whose dark and sad backstory makes his hatred of Christmas seem justified. The only thing that seemed to make him the antagonist was the fact that he was the only character with any depth. Throughout the film, he is shown on several occasions to have a heart, although ‘two sizes too small’, and a deep-rooted love for Christmas which is only overshadowed by his overwhelming sense of loneliness. He shows affection to Max who in return sees through The Grinch’s grumpy exterior and remains loyal to him during all his antics.
Illumination’s preferred use of non-speaking characters for comedic effect was showcased during the segment where The Grinch is putting together his Santa Claus persona. From Fred the overweight reindeer’s fascination with eating everything, to Bricklebaum’s angry guard dog who chases The Grinch up the house as he tries to steal the sleigh, to that one screaming goat who appears for less than a minute of the film, the studio proved once again that oftentimes actions are funnier than words.
The animation style was almost identical to the studio’s other films. Cindy Lou was almost a carbon copy of Edith from Despicable Me and Max could easily have an unnoticed cameo in The Secret Life of Pets. However, there was a nod to other Dr Seuss animations like the Who character model from The Lorax and The Grinch’s similarities to the Whos in Horton Hears A Who.
This version of The Grinch was certainly not laugh-out-loud but will give a good giggle every now and then especially towards the animal characters. It’s a simple and fun film which doesn’t completely revamp the original story but makes enough small changes to give it a fresher feel.
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