Over the Christmas period, the TV schedule is not complete without numerous showings of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The 2000 film starring Jim Carrey was our first live-action interpretation of the popular Dr. Seuss character, a perfectly serviceable if unspectacular family film to view over the festive season. However, 18 years on and the film is being rebooted by the hugely successful animation company Illumination, the studio behind the beloved Despicable Me franchise.
Pixar through films like Finding Nemo, Inside Out and the Toy Story series have found that near perfect balance of humour for adults and children, but I’ve always found Illumination seem far more content with just pleasing younger viewers. Simple plot, lots of slapstick humour, the studio makes films which parents can enjoy but not overly remember, whilst the children more often than not will laugh the entire way. This is exactly the same for The Grinch.
Low in storytelling but high in mischievous fun and Christmas spirit, this new re-imagining of The Grinch will delight younger viewers with its array of oddball characters, cute animals and the wonderful world of Whoville. The story follows a grumpy Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his trusty sidekick dog Max who plot to ruin Christmas for the village of Whoville. The village they have created is breath-taking, an enchantment of bright colours which is sure to immerse viewers on the big screen. From the stunning opening monologue which showcases the village in its entirety, they have certainly perfected the world Dr. Seuss created with some truly gorgeous animation, wonderfully directed too by Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Directorial debut).
Illumination know exactly what jokes will get the children laughing and they will certainly keep their target demographic constantly amused. The film goes for a far more modern approach and for the most part it works, but some visual gags will sadly fall totally flat for adults. What works better is the killer soundtrack (including songs from hip-hop superstars Tyler, the Creator and Brockhampton) and the soothing voice of legendary artist Pharrell Williams, who is brilliantly cast as the Narrator.
However for all the visual gimmicks and even at only 85 minutes, The Grinch feels strangely bloated. Cumberbatch shows he was the right man to voice our titular lead but when the focus changes to sweetheart Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) and the dynamic with her friends and mother, it feels very cliché and bland.
The ending whilst sweet, is so cheesy and over-played it can be quite painful for older viewers. Its message of the importance of family more than presents at Christmas is welcomed, but I think they overdo it. However, its heart is always in the right place and children are sure to eat it all up.
On balance, The Grinch just about earns its recommendation for festive fun for the whole family and I also feel it’s an improvement on the Jim Carrey interpretation too. It is also accompanied beforehand by the hilarious ‘Yellow is the new Black’ which is a new Minions skit (in similar vein to what Pixar do with their cinematic releases) and it’s simply brilliant.
Verdict: Parents should park their brains at the door and instead enjoy watching their children laugh themselves silly. The Grinch is colourful Christmas fun for the under 10s to fall in love with.
Best Moment: The Grinch blows his reindeer horn