The Grinch (2018), by Cameron J. Czaja

“You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.” Anyone who has celebrated Christmas has definitely heard those lyrics before, which is about the infamous character The Grinch created by Dr. Seuss. Much like Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch (ironically) is a Christmas icon that people love, or at least love to hate, and has been around for decades. Aside from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, people’s earliest memory of The Grinch (if you born before this century) was the 1966 television special that became a Holiday classic when it first aired. Then in 2000 the book was adapted into a full length live action film with Jim Carrey as the Grinch, which isn’t a critically acclaimed film but still has its fans, including myself. In 2018 another Grinch film was released, only this time it was animated by the same studio who did Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (Illumination studios, 2012), which if you read my review for that film then you know that I did not like that movie at all. Was this better than The Lorax? Let’s find out, and spoilers will be present in this review.

If you’re familiar with the classic animated short and the 2000 live action film both titled Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then you’re already familiar with the premise of The Grinch: it’s about a green furred guy simply called the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is unhappy in life and hates Christmas. He hates Christmas so much that he comes up with a nefarious plan to steal it from the town of Whoville occupied by citizens known as the Whos. Unlike the live-action film, however, the plot is somewhat different as his plot to steal Christmas happens early in the film rather then more than halfway through the narrative. From there the Grinch starts planning on how to steel the Christmas season from The Whos for good.

When I first heard about how there was going to be an animated retelling of Dr. Seuss’ classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I was actually somewhat excited for it, and when I heard that the Benedict Cumberbatch was going to voice the character that furthered my excitement. So with those two factors in play that must mean that The Grinch became a new Christmas classic right? Unfortunately, that was not the case and the film became a typical paint by numbers, studio driven, worked by committee, animated movies which is one of the worst kinds of animated films that Hollywood likes to put out.

If you can’t already tell by the tone of the previous paragraph then I’ll go ahead and say it: I did not care for The Grinch one bit. The jokes are mediocre at best, the plot is filled with filler, and the soundtrack is straight up generic. The biggest sin of this movie, however, is the star of the film himself, the Grinch. Just when I thought we would get another great rendition of the character, Illumination Studios found another way to destroy the character as well.

Whenever you think of the character The Grinch you think of a horrible, despicable person, with a heart is two sizes too small. Heck, even in his theme song they mention that he’s a bad banana with a greasy black peel. In The Grinch, however, the title character is portrayed as merely annoyed and grumpy. Sure he does a little mischief in the beginning, but other than that he’s not really as mean as he is meant to be. The reason this bothers me so much is because when The Grinch literally has a change of heart at the end it doesn’t feel earned whatsoever. Whenever I see a character in any film go through major character development it’s something that I tend to enjoy and I was hoping to get that here. The film The Emperor’s New Groove is a prime example of that where you have a character who is a horrible being but has a change of heart after going through a radical life change. The Grinch failed to capture any sense of progression in the character and that made me dislike the film even more.

Viewing the character of The Grinch through a Catholic perspective, he always reminded me of the tax collector Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10 (side note: this is actually one of my favorite Gospel readings). The reason I say that is because we all know that tax collectors are not viewed as pleasant people in the Bible, and for some reason I always connected Zacchaeus with The Grinch. To further my point both characters have a sense of redemption in their own story, and this film failed to deliver on that strong sense of redemption. I mean, it’s there, but I didn’t feel like I did with Zacchaeus. Then again, maybe I’m asking too much from this film.

Is The Grinch the worse than The Lorax? Definitely not because at least The Grinch did offer unique Christmas visuals. Other than that, don’t bother with it. Just watch the 2000 version, or better yet, the animated short which will save you a lot more time. Believe it or not, it’s also not as bad as other Christmas films that I have seen in the past, but that’s a review for another day.

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