The original Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas animated TV special in 1966 is a Christmas tradition for my family. We watch it on Christmas Eve every single year, and it’s my absolute favorite holiday movie/show. It’s simple, it’s funny, and it has a ton of heart. The Jim Carrey live action film of the same name came out in 2000, and while I don’t enjoy it as much as the original version, it’s pretty damn funny and they did a great job transforming The Grinch into a live action spectacle. When I first saw trailers and found out that we were getting a full length, animated The Grinch film, I was so excited. I figured at the very least it would be enjoyable and it’s such a simple story it would seem tough to mess up much. Unfortunately, The Grinch underwhelmed me in almost every way possible.
Let me start with one of the most important factors that bothered me off the bat: Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice. Cumberbatch is a fantastic actor, but he was a terrible choice to voice the Grinch. His voice isn’t strong enough if that makes sense. The Grinch is known for his strong, annoyed tone, and it’s missing here for the most part. He has a softness to him off the bat that is very un-Grinch-like. It’s jarring.
Continuing with the “soft” theme, the Grinch isn’t nearly as mean or as grumpy as he is in the other adaptations. Of course he has his moments being the grump we all know him to be, but he shows some heart well before his heart grows three sizes, and that just doesn’t feel right. He seems somewhat confused, lost, and a little sad throughout the movie rather than sly and grumpy. I understand the angle they went with for this version, but it just didn’t work in my opinion.
The movie also doesn’t make it apparent that most people in town know of the Grinch. It’s made clear that Mr. Bricklebaum (voiced by Kenan Thompson) knows him, but other than that he’s not talked about much by the townspeople. That felt strange to me. He was essentially a stranger when he came to town at the beginning of the movie.
Another big issue I had with the film was the narrator. Pharrell is awesome, I’m a fan of his, but he was not right for the part at all. It’s as if Universal was trying too hard to modernize the tale (same with the classic tunes that they gave a hip hop makeover to). It just didn’t work for The Grinch.
The bright spots were Kenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum, who actually was quite funny, and the visuals themselves which were great. I love the imagination of a Dr. Seuss world, and the visuals were fun to watch. Max is cute, as is the movie in general, but that’s about all it has going for it.
That short supply of positives doesn’t save The Grinch. It’s a poorly modernized, watered down, and mostly disappointing re-telling of this classic tale. I’d skip this one and keep watching the original 1966 version (or the Jim Carrey version if you’re craving some live action).