It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas. Bells are ringing, sleighs are sleighing and turkey’s are roasting but for some, the festive season is super stressful and – whisper it – sometimes NOT the most wonderful of times. Indeed, there are many people in the cultural zeitgeist who loathe such festive cheer and one of the biggest (and greenest) is The Grinch, who has been around for over a hundred years stealing Christmas. This year, in his new animated guide from the creators of Despicable Me, he’s doing it all over again.
This time it’s Avengers star Benedict Cumberbatch (continuing something of an unhealthy obsession with the colour green) beneath the hair and disgust, though without the 8 hours of make-up endured by Jim Carrey that saw a torture specialist hired to keep the comedian sane during the filming. The story, at least in the broadest terms, is pretty familiar: up upon Mount Crumpit lives our titular bah-humbug who after enduring one too many Christmases living above The Who’s of Whoville (who love it), decides enough is enough and that the festive season won’t be coming this year. Maniac laugh, maniac laugh…
Cumberbatch, who we last saw dissolve in Infinity War, is having a ball here: with an evil sneer and a rambunctious yet menacing tone, he brings The Grinch to a new audience with aplomb. He’s not a patch on Carrey, mind – and let’s face, who would be? – but he doesn’t need to be, as he fits this version like a glove and while the character feels somewhat held back from truly exploding, he still does wonders.
The ghost of Ron Howard’s 2000 film looms large over the whole film – enough time has past to make a new version and reverting back to animation after the live-action stint gives it a new look and feel but so ingrained into the Christmas Movie Zeitgeist is that version that it was always going to be an impossible task to replicate or indeed better what has gone before.
Smartly, Illumination and it’s writing/directing team (including frequent Kevin Smith collaborator Scott Mosier as co-director) have given this version a new sheen: a nip and a tuck here and there, that allows for it to feel fresher, if not always anything spectacular. Dynamics of families and culture are brought into modern-day, whilst the story itself is given a tune-up with new characters and narrative strands, but what it really needed was a bit injection of humour that would cross the ages rather than the under-9’s demographic the film has settled on.
As the nights get longer and the cold descends on us, some festive film cheer is much needed and The Grinch provides a welcome dose. It rarely breaks out of the kid-friendly zone but there’s enough here to keep all entertained for 90 minutes, even if many won’t remember any of it once it’s over.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=3]
Animation, Comedy, Family | USA, 2018 | U | 9th November 2018 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier | Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams