Even the smallest of hearts can one day be enlarged. Unless, you’re The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch). Mr. Grinch is the resident downer of Whoville, literally living to be the thorniest thorn in the city as a result of childhood trauma. Crazy thing is, despite his gruff demeanor and propensity to make life difficult for everyone, the citizens of Whoville remain steadfast to positive thinking. This irks The Grinch, especially as Christmas is five days away and Christmas cheer is in the air.

With the holiday being “three times bigger than ever,” he concocts a plan along with dog Max and reindeer Fred. Dressing as an impostor Santa Claus, he’ll steal all the Christmas gifts in the city, snatching the holiday and spirit from all. What he doesn’t know is that his scheme is going to cross the efforts of one Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), who hopes to ask Santa for a very special wish regarding her mother Donna Lou (Rashida Jones). And maybe, just, maybe, The Grinch will learn some tenderness in the process.

The second of two Christmas-themed movies in consecutive weeks has arrived in The Grinch. Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel’s 1957 story of the green-furred meanie finding compassion has been adapted many times, yet none of those adaptations compare to the 1966 television offering starring Boris Karloff as the eponymous character. One can tell where this is going. There’s nothing inherently terrible about this 2018 retelling, but little that will push this as the version families watch during the season, either.

At least this isn’t The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Co-directors Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier bring the world of Whoville to life, and retain the general look of the title character with some modernization. As can be expected with the genre sometimes, there’s a healthy dose of easy visual sight gags that do their job for the young people in the crowd. Like the original, a narrator is used to carry Seuss’ prose onto the big screen, and that task falls to musician Pharrell Williams. His spin on the material is sure to be divisive, but his melodic voice does generate a sense of warmth. Producing a significant chunk of the soundtrack is Tyler the Creator. The controversial rapper’s presence here seems a little bizarre (which only begins to describe the man), though his renditions are oddly enjoyable. On the basis of sheer technical production, Illumination is up near the top of animated studios, and The Grinch is another notch in their belt.

On the basis of providing fulfilling stories, Illumination often comes up short when compared to its animated studio brethren. The Grinch 2018 is a combination of two plot lines; one being the evolution of The Grinch from bitchy to benevolent, and the other Cindy Lou’s mission of finding Santa Claus. For the former, there’s a surprising smidge of reimagining at play that does give this Grinch a notable reason for acting how he does. As the latter goes, it’s an admirable effort to flesh out Cindy Lou, but an effort that tamps down the pace of the movie in pockets, especially as the story ends exactly how prior iterations have.

Obviously, voice work goes a long way in any animated film, and most of those who lend their talents to The Grinch seem to be having a good time; especially Kenan Thompson as one of the Grinch’s neighbors. You’d be hard pressed to hear one performer this year give a more dynamic vocal performance in an animated flick than Thompson gives here. If one person leaves a lot to be desired, it’s Cumberbatch. No one is dogging the immense talent the Brit has on screen, and he’s had a (jokingly) grinchy moment or two before. Still, he doesn’t exactly spring in the mind as a guy whose voice can carry the lead role in an animated film, and his contribution is just there, neither detracting or adding to the final result.

And the realization

Is that the previous sentence can be used as a blanket summation.

Bad isn’t the word used to describe for The Grinch 2018

But neither is pristine.

This version of Mr. Green

Is slightly above the mean.


Photo credits go to deadline.com, denofgeek.com, and cltampa.com

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