Review: “The Grinch”: “Who” thought this was a good idea?

Nicolas Belcaro, Out & About Editor

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“The Grinch” (2018) is the newest movie in Illumination Studios lineup of animated movies for children, and is the second of their adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss children’s story book. Like the book, the movie revolves around the eponymous Grinch, who hates Christmas with a burning passion. He tries to steal Christmas from the Whos, a race of human-like beings who are a little too obsessed with the holidays. He then feels remorse and returns the presents back to the humanoid creatures.While the movie itself is not as bad as “The Lorax”, it definitely has some places it can improve, and evidences some questionable director choices.
One major way the movie is lacking is in the Grinch himself of all places. He is severely watered down in comparison to his previous incarnations. The Grinch is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, of “Doctor Strange” fame. While Cumberbatch is by no means a bad actor, he simply doesn’t fit the personality of The Grinch. I have a hard time imagining Cumberbatch as anything as himself, thereby losing the Grinch character persona for me.
The other way the Grinch is a poor representation is in his visual design. While the original Grinch has piercing red eyes, and sickeningly green pupils, in this version the Grinch is cute, dare I say even adorable looking, thus going against his classic grumpy, vile personality.
Even the Jim Carrey Grinch had a demented demeanor not so unlike a botox surgery gone wrong. The new Grinch looks fluffy, and much softer, both figuratively and literally. He simply looks much friendlier and in no way as cunning.
The final way “The Grinch” fails is in his actions. While in the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the Grinch has a sudden change of heart, the new plot has this change happen slowly over time. This more gradual change makes the Grinch more sympathetic, and it is a plot change for the worse.
Some may say these changes aren’t bad, or think I simply dislike the movie because it is “different” than the childhood classic we all know and love. This is simply not true–I dislike 2018 “The Grinch” because the changes detract from the movie’s moral.
While the obvious moral of “The Grinch” is that the real meaning of Christmas is not the presents, but the family we celebrate it with, the movie has a secondary moral of that no matter how nasty someone may seem, they can enjoy the holidays if they give it a try. This is subtracted from when the Grinch is portrayed as a more sympathetic character. Audiences also learn some of the pivotal events of the Grinch’s past and his childhood, which help explain why the Grinch is the way he is, thereby developing more empathy for his character flaws.
Another way the movie seems lazy is in its visual design. The movies graphics themselves are not bad, and it is quite well animated, but what is there is severely lacking and uninspired. This mainly is in the case of the Whos. Outside of Cindy Lou Who and her posse of cohorts, the background Whos seem lazily made and amount to little more than weird looking dog-like humans. This is actually one area in which the movie has no excuse to fail. Even the original television special has more varied and interesting background characters.
In general, the movie doesn’t feel “Suess”-y enough. None of the gadgets have the complicated Rube Goldberg-esque quality for which Doctor Seuss is known. Viewers can tell that animators made a nod toward Seussian designs, like in the coffee machine Max the dog uses, but the machine pales in comparison to the complicated gadgets of the original, or the bizarre contraptions of the Jim Carrey version.
In the original, all the Whos have weird hair and outlandish outfits and live equally as strange. This is sadly lacking in the remake.
That’s not to say I hated the movie, some parts were indeed heartwarming and cute. The parts featuring Cindy Lou Who’s newly integrated cast of friends were refreshing, and watching their antics was entertaining. Another new addition to the cast who brought a smile to viewers’ faces was Fred, the friendly, rather chubby reindeer with the awesome hairdo. The screaming goat also had audiences laughing out loud.
While the movie isn’t anything groundbreaking, young children will children will find it interesting, but that isn’t anything a set of jingling keys or a shiny object couldn’t do just as well.
Overall though, this movie proves better than most in Illumination Studio’s recent repertoire. While not great, I still eagerly await Illumination’s next foray into Seuss adaptations, for better or for worse.