‘The Grinch’ Blu-Ray Review: An Enjoyable Modern Take On A Classic
Originally published in 1957, Dr. Seuss’s picture book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! quickly earned its place within the holiday’s iconography, with its namesake lead appearing in parades, a 1966 animated CBS special (which is dutifully rerun every season), and two movies. Illumination, best known for the Despicable Me series and its spin-off Minions, produced last year’s cinematic adaptation, simply called The Grinch.
While Illumination’s Grinch shares plenty in common with his incarnations from yesteryear, this is a more contemporary take on him and his story. This modernisation seeped its way into the soundtrack as well, most audible through rapper Tyler, the Creator’s two middling contributions. And although The Grinch is not on par visually with spectacles like Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it’s still enjoyable to watch, rendering Whoville and its inhabitants as the vibrant, colorful entries one would expect them to be.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the iconic green grouch, voicing him with an American accent (à la Doctor Strange) to blend in with the mostly American-born cast. Illumination accentuated the hermit’s comedic side, emphasizing his bumbling antics and needlessly intricate gizmos over the cold demeanor he formerly had. While there’s merit to this change, it does somewhat reduce the contrast he once had with Whoville’s eccentricity. Deciding to explore new territory with the character, the Grinch also received a backstory, depicting him as a lonely orphan who never shared a Christmas with loved ones. Our protagonist’s only companion is his peppy sidekick and long-suffering dog Max, who has more love and patience than his miserable master is capable of expending.
Because of the need to accommodate the film’s 86-minute runtime, Whoville and its citizens share the spotlight with the Grinch. Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), who had a fairly small (if significant) part in Dr. Seuss’s book, is promoted to a central character here. The little girl schemes with her useless friends to trap an unwitting Santa Claus and plead with him to help her struggling mom, Donna (Rashida Jones). Kenan Thompson portrays newcomer Bricklebaum, a Whoville native who’s as friendly to the Grinch as Max is but without the canine’s charm or purposefulness.
Unfortunately, whilst most of Illumination’s changes and additions are inherently inoffensive (although the Grinch’s epiphany is much less satisfying with the neutering of his personality), they drone out the message Suess concisely delivered in 1957. And while children may find Grinch’s slapstick and jokes funny, they lack the wit for older audiences to appreciate. In short, The Grinch only manages to muster some of Suess’s charisma when it directly mirrors his story. Little of the extra exposition adds anything engaging to the material, making the classic storybook or CBS’s cartoon the preferable mediums through which to enjoy the Grinch’s tale.
However, those who enjoy the film will have a lot to love with the Blu-ray’s bonuses, of which there are many. Twelve features delineate aspects such as the creation of the movie and the studio’s affection for the source material, demonstrating the passion that went into The Grinch. Three animated shorts also accompany the motion picture, two of which star the Minions while one stars the resourceful Max.