It’s the end of the year, and all through the world, chaos and unrest has continually unfurled. Wildfires ravaged the Outback, from the Pacific came giant hornets, corruption continues without arrests, and then of course there’s the virus. Businesses closed left and right… oh what a sight, a shopping mall devoid of crowds. As we huddle for the winter, it’s important to remember: treasure what you have, it may not last forever.
Okay, I’ll stop with the poetic prose. There’s one holiday tale in particular that highlights this message better than any other, and that of course would be Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Published in 1957, the book has since become a classic, and has been adapted multiple times for television and the big screen. On this Christmas Day, I would like to review one of these adaptations, and the adaptation I’ve chosen is the 2018 one by Illumination, simply titled The Grinch.
You already know how this story goes. Whoville’s excessive merry-making annoys the mean Mr. Grinch, and so he decides to steal Christmas from them. Despite losing everything, they still celebrate, and his heart grows three sizes as he realizes the true meaning of the holidays.
That much, at least, remains true. What changes, however, is the journey. A lot more emphasis is placed upon the logistics and set-up that goes into the Christmas heist, rather than the heist itself. The city of Whoville is also more fleshed-out; we get glimpses into the Whovian’s daily routines, their personal connections and friendships, and we even get an extended look at the outskirts of the city and the slopes of Mount Crumpit.
The art and animation is stellar, as expected from Illumination, and it’s easily the prettiest of the three big adaptations. Not that that’s really a fair comparison, considering the 18-year gap, but still. The music is good… for the most part. There’s an exception I’ll get to later, but the soundtrack serves its purpose well. Special mention goes to the Christmas Carol Chase scene, set to the Pentatonix cover of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
Of course, this movie would be nothing without its star character, so let’s talk about the bad banana himself, Mr. Grinch. The green-furred plump gift snatcher, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is about as rotten as you’d expect him to be. He destroys snowmen just because he can, plugs his ears at the sound of joy, and is generally not a fun guy to be around. He is given some relatable qualities though. He’s inventive, good with animals, and a good listener when Christmas cheer isn’t being shoved down his ear canals.
Contrasting with the 2000 adaptation, he’s not in exile because everyone ridicules him. No, he could live down in Whoville if he really wanted to. He’s capable of making new friends, like Cindy Lou Who and Fred the big-boned reindeer. He’s able to maintain relationships, as is the case with his ‘neighbor’ Mr. Bricklebaum, as well as his ever-loyal dog companion Max. Finding work wouldn’t be an issue for someone with his skills… heck, he could even start his own business.
The key thing keeping him in isolation is that both sides have lost sight of what’s really important. Whoville got too caught-up in the spectacle of Christmas, and the Grinch started hating it and shutting himself away in response, never allowing himself to experience the good that comes with it. Nobody ever spoke out against it, so everyone else just assumed it was fine, and the problem began to fester. Was the Grinch justified in lashing out like this? Maybe not, but with the way things were going, a conflict was basically inevitable.
Anyways, this is supposed to be a review, not a social commentary, so let’s bring the reins back in a bit. The Grinch manages to introduce a lot of neat designs while still remaining faithful to the whimsical style of Dr. Seuss. The Grinch’s Rube Goldberg coffee machine, for instance, is a pretty fun addition. There’s also Max’s flying… suit? drone? contraption… yeah, let’s go with that… Max’s flying contraption, hooked up wirelessly to a live camera feed. Not only is it useful for recon, the Grinch doesn’t even need to leave home to use it. Whoville has so much color and whimsy to it as well, a perfect contrast to the natural beauty of the city outskirts.
That being said, this movie had one huge miss when it came to blending old and new, and for that I must backtrack to the soundtrack. “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is perhaps the most iconic thing to come out of the Grinch adaptations, and this movie brings it back once again… but Tyler the Creator’s rap cover is, to quote the original version, “an appalling dump heap.”
Yes, I had to quote the original, his version cuts that line entirely. Is this an unpopular opinion? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I hate this cover with the passion of the Grinch.
Keep it 39-and-a-half feet away from me.
It’s as charming as an eel… actually, no, that’s insulting to eels.
Given the choice between this and Jim Carrey’s cover, I’d pick Jim Carrey every single time.
Seriously, this song almost single-handedly brings down the movie’s rank for me, that’s how much I hate it. The only saving grace is that it doesn’t take up much run-time.
I could go on, but for the sake of my own sanity, I’m just going to wrap this review up. I do like this movie, it’s a great holiday watch and a good adaptation of a classic. The characters have a certain idealistic charm to them, the animation is great, and the designs live up to the Seuss style. It might not be the best Grinch adaptation, but I’ll give it a win in style points.