The Grinch

Jacob Richardson | 25/11/2018

An unnecessary remake of the beloved film, it’s not clear if this movie is absolutely detestable because of its pointlessness, or because it never really engages with the audience on an emotional level.


Telling the classic story of Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, The Grinch follows our angry green compatriot (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he and his trusty dog Max try and steal Christmas from the town of Whoville.


When Christmas-time comes around, the 2000 version of The Grinch, with Jim Carrey in the title role, is an absolute staple. Not only is it a visually sumptuous affair, it’s all the more impressive because it is live action - Carrey needed hours and hours every day to get into makeup to turn him into the green beast. Couple that with his performance, the Grinch being a role he was born to play. He brings all the physicality of his brand of humor to a somewhat detestable character, and in doing so he and Ron Howard created a film that is not only engaging for children, but also fun and enjoyable for adults, with a slew of great moments that stay with you.


This updated version has none of this.


Directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier certainly play with the visual elements of animation well, creating Whoville as a more physically astounding location. But despite their best efforts, they can never quite drum up the sense of scale required. In animated form, we can’t get a grip on where the Grinch’s cave is, how remote his isolation, or how big the city.


The animated format also loses much of the insanity of the Who’s themselves. In live action, they’re strange button noses and head shapes are whimsical and create a sense of fantasy. Here, in a society desensitised to the creativity in depicting a personage through animation, they are just another non-descript, uninspiring stand in for human form. It takes the whimsy out of the piece almost immediately.


Cumberbatch does well as the titular character, but he is hamstrung by a creative choice to play him as quite dourly narrow. Carrey’s OTT performance as the green monster gave him a sense of joi de vivre, which is so sorely missing from this iteration.


Indeed, that lack of joy and happiness is probably the most damning thing about The Grinch. Whereas the Carrey version was inspiring, joyous, and frequently laugh out loud funny, here barely a smile is cracked let alone a laugh (from young and old alike). It feels like we are going through the motions, rather than watching a story we love unfold.


As an animated film, The Grinch suffers the same problem as it’s green anti-hero; it’s heart is two sizes too small.