Film review by Jason Day of The Grinch. Based on the Dr Seuss book about a curmudgeon who plots to destroy Christmas for a town by stealing their presents. Featuring the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch and Angela Lansbury.
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Each December, the residents of Whoville go all out on the decorations, presents and peace and goodwill to all men, women and children to make Christmas as magical as possible.
This year, the mayor (voiced by Angela Lansbury) decrees they need to make Christmas the biggest and best ever. The residents happily comply with her wishes.
Watching from afar is the solitary figure of The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former member of the town who, after isolating himself for years, loathes the festive period as it reminds him of how little love he has in his life. He decides to ‘steal’ Christmas from them, to make them feel his pain.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Dr Seuss’ book How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), a comical, critical treatise on the over commercialisation of Christmas, is a classic of children’s literature, though more popular stateside than in the UK.
Hence why, even with this new, wholly animated version of the book (Jim Carrey starred in a CGI/live action version in 2000), I have failed to latch on to either its importance or charm.
I’m from the Road Dahl generation, immersed in his tales of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the physical descriptions of The Twits and, of course, the thrillingly assertive antics of Matilda.
Needless to say my eight year old nephew, always up on what is a modern-trend, whether revival or original, was keen to go and see this (he is the boy who can ‘floss/dance’ like there’s no tomorrow. Seriously: at my 40th birthday party, he flossed on and off for a three hour period with now let-up, no flagging).
Duly, we made our traditional Christmas cinema trip and The Grinch was the only movie he wanted to see.
The opening 20 minutes are sensational.
Whoville is a brilliantly realised place, a Gingerbreadopolis, with multi-story alpine houses, triple-decker buses and slalom tracks for roads.
The Grinch walks into this perpetual Christmas haven as the complete polar opposite, but one with a unique human need – his cupboards are bare and he needs to stock up.
Cue much hilarity as this miserly misanthrope deals with cheery humans as only a humbug can: he chucks snowballs at children that knock them out, takes the last item on a supermarket half that is a smaller person’s must-have dinner ingredient (before rejecting it and smashing it on the ground) and steals old lady’s walking sticks.
Well, it happens. We’ve all been there when queuing at Sainsbury’s for more than 10 minutes.
Cumberbatch has fine fun with his rasping, misery-guts voice and it’s great to have Lansbury back (briefly) in big screen movies as the Mayor.
The Grinch is a visual delight throughout. The animation is colourful and top-notch throughout. But that sarcastic, tart sense of humour that starts the film quickly evaporates.
For those even half familiar with the story, you know the ending turns to schmaltz, but the ‘tonal vacuum’ that is the middle of this film make that switch lose impact.
Cast & credits
Directors: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier. Illumination Entertainment/Perfect World Pictures/Universal. (U)
Producers: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri.
Writers: Michael Le Sieur, Tommy Swerdlow.
Music: Danny Elfman.
Sets: Colin Stimpson.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams, Tristan O’Hare, Keenan Thompson, Sam Lavagnino, Ramone Hamilton, Angela Lansbury.