by Philip Price
Director: Yarrow Cheney & Scott Mosier
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely & Rashida Jones
Runtime: 1 hour & 26 minutes
The obvious, conflicting idea here is that 2018's “The Grinch” has been crafted purely as a cash grab for Illumination, but preaches a message of the holiday season being more about selflessness and giving than receiving and indulging.
I was 13 in 2000 when the Jim Carrey-fronted and Ron Howard-directed “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” barreled its way into theaters. I vividly remember being excited to finally be able to see the movie on the big screen and to experience this thing that had been so discussed and so built-up that it truly felt like an event. Remember, these are the days when you had to see movies to be able to see movie trailers and there was always a hope I'd get to catch a glimpse of Carrey as the titular Grinch every time I went to the cinema (which was far less back then). Needless to say, Howard's “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” swept me up and delivered a sense of wonder I could only dream of, but that they had fully realized. And though I only return to the film once every three or so years around the holiday season it still holds something of special place in my heart despite the growing number of detractors over the years.
And so, walking into what felt like a somewhat unnecessary, but completely logical (from a financial perspective) re-telling of the story via the studio that brought us the minions and “The Secret Life of Pets” there was no reason to expect 2018's “The Grinch” to be anything other than what it so obviously was intended to be: that aforementioned cash grab. Alas, that's mostly what this 90-minute exercise in "cinematic candy floss" is, but dammit if, by the end of the film, I wasn't wrapped up in the emotional beats of the story that has the viewer feeling sympathy for the grouchy Grinch. I rather liked Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on the guy - appropriately irritated, but not evil or scary. The film also overcomes the biggest obstacle Howard's feature-length version had trouble with and that was stretching the narrative to such a length without feeling like much of it was padded. While this newest version is a cool 15 minutes shorter than the live-action version, the pacing (sans a short section in the middle) is consistently even and always manages to be entertaining in more intriguing ways than I might want to give the studio credit for.
Each of the characters are immensely likable - Max, new reindeer friend, Fred, along with the crew of town's children led by Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) each offer something that counters the Grinch's dismissive attitude so as to make him more mindful, if not necessarily more tender towards the many Christmas-themed circumstances he encounters. This is all to try and say without spoiling too much that the two main story strands resolve themselves perfectly and in a heartwarming enough way that it would seem impossible to stay mad at the movie for being one thing and teaching another; at the very least, it offers the value of keeping your children hooked for 90-minutes while conveying an earnest sense of gratitude to the parents willing to spend money on something they've seen before. Who knows, some of the older generations may even be as surprised by 2018's “The Grinch” as the Grinch was by the true meaning of Christmas.
Leave a Reply.