Me and Dr Seuss adaptations don’t get along. That’s not too say I don’t like Dr Seuss, his books are fine, in fact some of them have actually held up remarkably well. The problem is that, well, his movies are not so great, and that’s basically because most of these films were not made whilst he was alive… in fact the only ones made when he was alive were the animated shorts by Chuck Jones, Dr Seuss knew his stories inside and out, they were meant to be short and to the point. Seuss rejected several offers over the years to turn his books into live action films. Unfortunately, his widow decided to basically sell them to the highest bidder every time which resulted in several terrible adaptations. This includes Mike Myers and that god awful Cat in the Hat film which is a blight on human eyes and intelligence. The terrible adaptation of The Lorax, which misses the plot of the book entirely. Horton Hears a Who which is probably the best of the bunch by proxy, even though it has terrible out of no where Anime references for some bizarre reason. The problem I have with Dr Seuss films is that they’re so crass. They have a terrible sense of being very much a marketing ploy. The Grinch is the first in this instance, since this is the first time we are getting the film done again, what is it the 3rd? If you count the Chuck Jones short which starred Boris Karloff, which was pretty good and was my first exposure to The Grinch story, I remember watching it at Christmas on Cartoon Network, and I still think it’s worth a watch. Then you’ve got the terrible Jim Carrey film which I would happily burn in a fire, simply for how much it screws up just about everything. Not to mention this was basically when everyone was trying to milk Jim Carrey for all he was worth.
When it was announced that Illumination Pictures would be doing this film I was rather sceptical considering I’ve not really reviewed many Illumination Picture films all that well, although I was slightly convinced by the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of The Grinch. Though whatever my positives are and whatever my criticisms are for this film I stand by that this film has come out way too soon. The November 9th release is designed so they don’t seem like they’re coming out too late for competing with Disney’s, The Nutcracker, which while I haven’t seen that film at time of writing, judging by Rotten Tomatoes score, they probably shouldn’t have even bothered, releasing this thing in about 2 weeks’ time they probably would have still dominated the box office.
Let’s see if they managed to do this one semi competently… You’re probably familiar with the story of The Grinch, the usual thing, green guy played by Benedict Cumberbatch, doesn’t like Christmas and doesn’t like the people of Whoville being so joyous and celebrating it, so decides he is going to make a point and steal their Christmas so they are just as miserable as him, and he doesn’t have to put up with it anymore. All whilst this film is being narrated by Pharrell Williams, yes, the guy who did the song Happy.
Ok, I eluded that I thought this film was going to be terrible, so let’s start with one of my biggest complaints of this film. The new version of ‘You’re a mean one Mr Grinch is appalling. Whoever decided to turn that song into a hip hop mix, I am officially tracking you down. It just is crap! I didn’t like the sort of jazzy version that we got in a few of the trailers, but that was a lot better than this one.
Ok, now I got that rant out the way, I will say one thing… It’s better than the Jim Carey film, and that is not a back handed compliment, there is a lot to like about this film. Cumberbatch’s casting is actually pretty damn good, I would actually say I like they dynamic between him and Max in this film. Max the dog has often been silent in most adaptations, giving him more to do this time is actually a benefit. There are a few new characters I presume, but none of them feel like they take up too much room or time. As you expect Cindy-Lou Who is in the film, played by Cameron Seely. Un like the last time where she’s trying to find out The Grinch’s past and asking loads of questions to the people of Whoville of what his deal is, in this one se has a more personal arc in trying to stay up for Santa so that he can grant her a wish to make her mother less over-worked. It didn’t really amount to much but I will say I appreciated it more than what her character was given in. the Jim Carey version. There is also another character that gets a few scenes, Mr Bricklebaum, who is played by Kenan Thompson from the Kenan and Kel series, who verges on being annoying but luckily, he’s not in the film too much, and never overstays his welcome, and is just a pretty nice guy. It is also a cue to Kenan Thompsons talent since I didn’t actually recognise it was him for a lot of the film.
This film also benefits greatly from the fact that it’s animated rather than live action. If there is one thing that is both The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat, is that Dr Seuss’ stories were never meant to be seen in 3D or live action, it just looks weird and terrible.
Luckily this film is animated and they fortunately haven’t overloaded this film with voices you can’t recognise. The only one picked for marketing purposes is Pharrell Williams, with that being said he did a lot better of a job than I was expecting, he actually does nail some of Seuss’ original lines that have been put into the film. As well as some of the lines that have been written specifically for the film. The only other voice you might recognise is Angela Lansbury from Murder She Wrote.
Now as I mentioned the film does a pretty good job extending its run time in a decent way. Comparing it again to the Jim Carey film: in that film it is padded like hell, plus it makes the Whovians way to materialistic which means the message is kind of a shot in the foot by the end if you think that The Grinch might actually have a reason to be annoyed with everyone. In this version they spend a lot more time showing The Grinch preparing his plan for how he is going to steal everyone’s Christmas, and while it does feel a little unnecessary they do give him some decent reason as to why he doesn’t like Christmas. They also keep the Whovians wholesome. They do like Christmas and they do have a few things that they genuinely want, and go a bit over the top. At the end of the day they do seem genuinely good hearted people. The film fortunately doesn’t give the fact that they need to learn a lesson along with The Grinch.
Going back to the soundtrack they did keep in that song from the Rankin/Bass short which is greatly appreciated. Though some of the carols they did put in the film were a bit weird considering they all make direct reference to the birth of Jesus, which fully confirms there must be some sort of Christianity in the Dr Seuss universe. Wow, that actually gets weirder the more you think about it…
Getting back on top, the animated designs are actually also well done. They definitely feel like they have come out of the same universe as The Lorax and Horton Hears A Who. The new characters that have been created are not too bad, including Fred the reindeer who unfortunately had all of his best moments ruined by the trailers.
In fact, that is a really big negative for this film, with many kids films these days most of the best bits are in the trailer. While I’m on the subject or groan inducing, that was how I felt about the Minions short that played before this film. I’m getting sick of the Minions at this point, they were kind of funny in the first two Despicable Me films but they’ve been over saturated too hell, this unnecessary short highlighted the point. This film also has very few extra jokes than were in the trailer, if you’ve been following these trailers as much as I have since I spend tonnes of time in cinemas and see tonnes of trailers, you’ve pretty much seen most of the film. If they made you laugh in the trailer they may not make you laugh again.
The biggest problem with The Grinch however, is it’s a rather forgettable film. This is something that’s going to play a lot at Christmas and I wouldn’t object, I probably would watch that if it was on TV but I wouldn’t actively seek out to watch it again. It has a nice message, certainly nicer than the live action film. Some of the physical comedy is actually pretty damn good. If you have kids around I would recommend this much more than the Jim Carey film, which if you couldn’t tell by now, I despise!
What it does well it does alright and it’s not overloaded with celebrities and marketing. The only thing I groaned at the most was the terrible use of the screaming goat meme, which would have dated this film if the meme wasn’t already dated by the time of this films release.
This film cost me extra to see on opening weekend, so it might be worth actually waiting to see it around Christmas. Judging by the Rotten Tomatoes scores I would actually say go and see this over The Nutcracker, if you have to see a Christmas film this year.
Well that’s The Grinch out the way, while it was better than I was expecting, let’s move on to a sequel of a film I have already reviewed. Next week I’m going back to Harry Potter, to review Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald.
Share This Post:“”