We all love Dr Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and its message about the true meaning of Christmas. So, you probably don’t need to worry about any spoil alerts. It’s a holiday tradition that never gets old.
At this point, three versions of “The Grinch” have been made. The first was a Chuck Jones animated TV special in 1966 with Boris Karloff giving an electric performance as both the narrator and voice of the Grinch; the second was a live-action film in 2000 with Jim Carrey disguised by production values; and the third and latest is a CGI animated feature from Illumination Entertainment (“Despicable Me,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Sing”). I was concerned this would be just a cash-grab, but it’s actually nicer than you expect.
You know the story, the green Grinch loathes Christmas so much that he steals all the presents, lights, and Roast Beast from the people of Whoville, and finally undergoes a change of heart. The Chuck Jones special went by the book, but movies add certain elements that make their characters tick. In this version, the Grinch had a lonely childhood, and Little Cindy Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely) wants to catch Santa Claus to ask him to help her overworked mother (voiced by Rashida Jones). And joining in on the Grinch’s diabolical scheme is a fat reindeer named Fred. I assume the company wanted their own Sven.
Benedict Cumberbatch voices the mean old Grinch, and at times, he sounds like Doctor Strange or Smaug on a Nick Jr. show. He’s sounds like he’s having fun voicing the Grinch. He’s joyfully animated, and his mean-spirited humor is not like the obnoxious Jim Carrey role, but more like Gru from the first “Despicable Me.” For example, he helps a small Who put a carrot on his snowman, and pushes the head off. But out of everything else, he shows more respect for his dog Max by petting and complimenting him. That’s why he has to play his one-dog reindeer.
I wish it could have been a bit longer and I was a little disappointed that Angela Lansbury as the Mayor was just treated as a cameo role. But on the bright side, the movie still wants to remind people about the true meaning of Christmas. It has a sweet-hearted tone, and even the Grinch is more sensitive than his name.
The Whos look much better than those munchkin-looking ones from the live-action film, and I think they’re meant to be fuzzy. Nobody is annoying or greedy, not even the jolliest Who Bricklebaum (voiced by Kenan Thompson), and that’s a good thing. And this Cindy Lou Who is probably the cutest version I’ve seen since June Foray voiced her in the Chuck Jones version. I was worried that she would be a generic little twerp, but thankfully, she isn’t.
And you also have Pharrell Williams as the narrator. Did they get him because he sang on the “Despicable Me” soundtracks or they did get him for his voice? That’s hard to say, but he does a solid job at keeping it at a kid’s tone.
Thanks to the people behind Illumination Entertainment and Benedict Cumberbatch’s fun voice, the movie is cute and flexible. Not better than Boris Karloff’s voice, but still imaginative.
I won’t take the Seasick Crocodile.