Gather round all as I tell you a tale, of a studio that has since lost track of its trail. A few years ago, the profit lay with animation, and from this fact came Illumination. With a despicable one hit wonder, they seemed to have struck gold, but after a while their gimmick got old. They just couldn’t repeat their initial success, and ever since then, they’ve been trying to impress. “Social relevance,” they thought, “that’s the way to go”, but this only emphasized their all-time low. But Illumination wouldn’t stop trying in a pinch, and from their incompetence came the incompetent Grinch.
I swear that I saw The Grinch being a little timid when it comes to his meanness. Even at his cruellest, the character is too compassionate letting so many opportunities of meanness pass him by. The film wants to stay too friendly and is rarely encouraged to take that extra step forward when it comes to The Grinch’s mean spirit. While you can tell Benedict Cumberbatch is trying to be at the top of his game in voicing Grinch, the character sounds and acts like someone who’s just having a really bad day rather than having a grudge against Christmas.
Maybe the boredom is situated at all the laughable attempts at modernizing a story from 1957. Whenever I see a film that so desperately tries to be socially relevant, I always feel that I am being silenced from asking why or what purpose. What purpose is it to turn its famous Christmas song into a rap? Heck, even the Jim Carrey adaptation knew not to change it drastically. Does the town of Whoville really need to parody so many things (Whole Foods and Old Spice for example)? But quite possibly the worst why of all, why is The Grinch hardly ever mean?
I swear that I saw The Grinch smile more times than he frowned, even at his meanest the character is too compassionate letting so many opportunities of meanness pass him by. The film wants to stay too friendly and is rarely encouraged to take that extra step forward when it comes to The Grinch’s mean spirit. While you can tell Benedict Cumberbatch is trying to be at the top of his game in voicing Grinch, the character sounds and acts like someone who’s just having a really bad day rather than having a grudge against Christmas.
When you have a story like The Grinch that is decades old, I always look for those little changes, those little moments when the filmmakers tweak the story just ever so slightly so that their attempts to do something different aren’t overlooked. This Grinch makes a big change in the character by giving him a backstory to why he hates Christmas so much. Although a great idea, it’s just another example of the film not taking that extra step. His motivation for hating Christmas is simple, that’s fine, but ask yourself if the film has stuck with the predicted three reasons of (his shoes, his head and his heart) would his change in character be more pleasing. The 1957 animation managed it so why can’t this film.
I now want to move on to the character of Cindy-Lou (Cameron Seely) who in the 2000 adaptation of The Grinch had more of a bigger role than the original story, but in this adaptation, she has reverted to a minor role which can be welcoming but also disruptive for those who grew with the live-action retelling. Although she is minor, she still carries an important moral message for children. She wants to capture Santa Clause so that she can thank him for helping her mother who is an overworked, single mother. Admittedly this is good writing, when it comes to Christmas The Grinch and Cindy-Lou are completely opposite characters, but having their plots revolve around the same person is a great way for one to change the other when they finally meet. However, I don’t think that the moral message provided by Cindy-Lou is as nailed in as it could have been, which isn’t to say it’s not important.
At least the film looks like a Dr. Seuss creation. In the past, the worlds of Dr. Seuss have been either too wacky or too bland, but The Grinch has managed to find the in-between and create a colourful world without compromising the style that has become unique to Dr. Seuss. All the gadgetry and technology has been given a Seussian spin, even just the simplest things like trees, mountains, even store shelves look like something Dr. Seuss would illustrate. On the whole, the look is very pleasing and bright, good job.
This film plays it too safe for my reckoning and the attempts to modernize the story actually does the reverse and make it more outdated. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is already a perfect story and what Illumination doesn’t seem to realize it’s incredibly difficult to make better what is already perfect. Trying to appeal to children is not done through modernization and wafer-thin humour, it is done by taking risks and having larger than life characters. The very best children and family films and the ones that we fall in love with have depth with a message that reaches out to everyone. My heart most certainly shrunk two sizes too small when I realized that Illumination hadn’t realized this because they have the animation quality to do this and yet still seek social relevance because that’s clearly more important than creating a film that will be remembered.
Final Result: 3/10 – Poor
Have you seen The Grinch? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald