Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones
Director: Scott Mosier, Yarrow Cheney
The folks at Illumination, the ones behind the Minions series, are at it again. After giving us Dr Seuss' The Lorax, they've adapted yet another of the master storyteller's classics, The Grinch. Though the first adaptation of The Grinch was a 1966 animated series, it was the live-action Jim Carrey-starrer which brought the mean, green creature to the masses. And now, we get to see him in animation format again, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who has previously provided the voice for Smaug, Sauron and The Necromancer (The Hobbit series) and Classified (Penguins of Madagascar).
Instead of concentrating on what made Grinch the misanthropic and egotistical character that he is, like the 2000 film, The Grinch focuses mainly on how he decides to ruin the Christmas celebrations of Whoville. There is only a brief mention of what made him into someone who despises even saying the word 'Christmas'. Beneath all that hatred and despair, is an extremely small heart that longs for company. Though he convinces himself that "it is better this way", he finds solace in the company of his faithful pup, Max, and his newest recruit for the mission, Fred, a hefty reindeer, about whom Grinch says, "Santa had eight and he looks like he ate the other seven."
What also differentiates this film from the other adaptations are the two different story arcs: that of the Grinch and another about Cindy Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely), who wants to trap Santa so she can get her wish fulfilled -- to make her overworking single mother, Donna Lou Who (Rashida Jones), happy. While it's obvious that the arcs will converge at a certain point, the makers try their best to make the film interesting to that point. Unlike the Jim Carrey-starrer that had its share of negativity, this film stays positive throughout its runtime and makes the point that it's not the gifts that make Christmas what it is, but the people.
The complication of reworking such a classic is that the makers not only have to match up to the expectations of fans, they also have to come up with something new, to make it stand apart. Directors Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) have done this with their visuals and narration. The visuals are bright and colourful which brings out the spirit of Christmas, and the design of the city of Whoville is similar to the way it's described in the books. As for the narration, it's interestingly provided by Pharrell Williams, and in one scene, the Grinch decimates his alarm clock just because the tone it plays is the singer's Happy. The film's score is another feather to veteran composer Danny Elfman's hat. Last, but certainly not the least, Benedict Cumberbatch steals the show by bringing the laid-back, grumpy character to life.
It is rather ironic to see an animated film talk about consumerism, all while it is released more than a month before the actual festival in order to cash in sooner. That said, The Grinch stays true to its origins and does a decent job of retelling a feel-good story for the kids of this generation. As for the adults in the audience, though it won't quite make your heart grow three sizes, it certainly is a nice, nostalgic trip down memory lane