Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Thanks to Universal Pictures for an invitation to attend an advanced screening of this film for the purpose of review.
It’s not often that you will find an entire auditorium dying of laughter as “The Grinch” directed by Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier, caused at a screening. Reusing the traditional and practically clichéd story of a Grinch, voiced by Academy-Award nominated Benedict Cumberbatch, the film stars the character in his traditional form for a modern audience. While fellow colleagues may have bashed the film for its lack of innovation, The Grinch remains entertaining throughout even if there isn’t anything new that directors Cheney and Mosier are able to add to it.
Sitting on a teetering 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, there are notable detriments that nearly collapse the entire experience. An example can be found prevalent early on, namely that the film tries far too hard to evoke emotions that aren’t related to its mildly comical jokes. Many of the frequent interactions between Donna Lou Who and Cindy Lou Who are charming but occasionally attempts to steer into thematic material. Although in any other film with a more serious tone these attempts could have been successful, it doesn’t have the ability to be taken seriously since the moments before and after these scenes are very comedic making the “emotional” scene lack an emotionally resonant impact. It comes off as a defeated attempt that only serves as filler in the already bloated run time.
Another notable issue that the film constantly counters is the lack of attention to detail, specifically the people of Whoville. Even though the film does have a somewhat production budget, some of the issues are rather inexcusable. All the characters look the exact same except for the very few amount of characters that serve a purpose like Bricklebaum, Cindy Lou, and obviously, the Grinch. The rest of the characters look just like the next and have few variations in their appearances. Donna Lou, one of the characters of the main cast, is almost unrecognizable when compared to other characters in the movie since all of the character designs are practically identical. Speaking of characters, some of them serve absolutely no purpose to the story and take more screen time that could have been used to see what notorious deeds the title character is doing at the time. But given how the film feels so stretched over its length, the decision neither benefits or hurts the film.
Most of Cindy Lou’s friends in the movie are a waste of space and don’t do anything big enough to change the outcome of the story making them irrelevant for the entire film. The entirety of the “Cindy Lou’s Wish” plot could have been done with just her and maybe her friend Groopert since the others just stood there while Cindy Lou and occasionally Groopert did all of the work. Finally, the worst part of the movie is the awful rendition of the song, “He’s a Mean One Mr. Grinch.” In attempt to make the song modern, the original tune of the composition is completely rewritten giving off a completely unwanted tone the overall story.
Although the film did have its share of bad qualities, it becomes easier to swallow with the technical achievements blockbuster animation studio Illumination attains. For example, unlike previous renditions of “The Grinch,” such as the other movies and the original book by Dr. Seuss, the film is authentic to the original source material and the minor variations of the same story but also is still innovative in terms of what little emotion it is able to portray. In this film, the Grinch is more humane and goes through a realistic character developmental process which was nonexistent in the live-action, animated, and book versions of the same story, a process that I wish could have been applied to other characters.
Out of all the wonderful people and things that change the Grinch’s attitude towards Christmas, his brief interaction with local resident Cindy Lou’s kind personality is what makes him want to be a better person. Although the poor quality of characters was mentioned earlier, the main characters, the Grinch, Max, and Fred are incredibly well detailed and the texture of each of their fur coats look very realistic. The entire movie has a stunning aesthetic which gives a very colorful and vibrant feeling to Whoville while the Grinch’s house provides a satisfactory contrast but is also still complementary to the feelings that are trying to be achieved during those respective scenes. But of all the great characteristics of the movie, the film’s best quality is its remarkable humor. Almost every joke presented in the film is executed well and makes the film something the entire family can enjoy. But while the film pulls for enjoyment from the collective family, to older viewers the entire experience will seem like a bloated and overly kid-friendly experience.
As a collective whole, the film has the sheer technical achievements that audiences have come to expect from Despicable Me studio Illumination Entertainment. It’s bright; it’s colorful and has all the elements to please families and younger audiences. But for everyone else, the issue that there simply isn’t enough story to maintain its 86-minute run time will remain prevalent and its defeated attempts of being remotely resonant will most likely turn them away from the auditorium.
Score: 6.4 out of 10
The Grinch and his loyal dog, Max, live a solitary existence inside a cave on Mount Crumpet. His main source of aggravation comes during Christmastime when his neighbors in Whoville celebrate the holidays with a bang. When the Whos decide to make Christmas bigger and brighter, the disgruntled Grinch realizes there is one way to gain peace and quiet. With help from Max, the green grump hatches a scheme to pose as Santa Claus, steal Christmas and silence the Whos' holiday cheer once and for all.
THE GRINCH hits theaters on November 9th, 2018.