As of late, I have found myself in a state deprived of motivation or a muse. What good is writing if there is no song in my heart to do so? It was not until last night, around six p.m., that I found a piece of art that moved me enough to write again.
Today, I will be discussing Illumination’s adaptation of the Grinch.
Do take note how I say “adaptation.” I’m sure everyone has formed their opinion of the other installments of the Suess classic—including Jim Carrey’s hilarious abomination of the film back in 2000. No, instead we will focus our attention on the most recent of the renditions, created by the foreboding, minion-spawning officials over at “Despicable Me-Ville.” Gru’s character can only be saved because of Steve Carrel’s utter magnitude he brings to every performance, but does the Grinch have this same quality? The answer is obvious and has even sparked a dangerous debate amongst teenage girls (and boys) across the web: the grouchy Who himself is voice by none other than Marvel and Sherlock heartthrob, Benedict Cumberbatch.
However, this matter I will touch upon later. Firstly, there will be spoilers in this review, and I have no intention in ruining one of the greatest films of the decade for you or your kin. With that said, I must begin this review by stating the minute problems I had with it. (This is a Grinch review, after all. Did you expect positivity right out of the gate?)
Around thirty minutes or so into the movie, the Grinch accidentally catapults himself into Whoville when trying to hit their immense Christmas tree with a snowball. Flung into the crowd and forced to hear the caroling and the laughter and the chatting amongst friends, he retreats slowly, clutching his head as if he was experiencing an outburst of PTSD. The scene shifts and shows a flashback of him as a young Who 53 years ago, abandoned and alone in an orphanage on Christmas day. While this scene is emotional and painfully realistic, its most blaring issue hit me right in the face while I watched it. Wouldn’t this scenario render the “had a heart two sizes too small” argument completely void? In my opinion, they could have done away with the heart problem like they did with the terminates in his teeth.
That leads me swiftly into my next problem: the Grinch isn’t mean. He is a jerk, yes, who eats pickles without paying for it when he’s making his tri-monthly runs to the supermarket, and who also tells children that Santa probably isn’t real. But other than that, he strikes more as a socially anxious, wounded soul that ended up hating a holiday of cheer and love because he had no one to spend it with. Not to mention that his design is much cuter and more inoffensive than years past—cuddly as a cactus? More like as cuddly as a blanket straight out of the dryer. Termites in his smile? Please, he could be used in an ad for doctor-recommended toothpaste.
Many blame the reason for his sanitized nature on Illumination’s inability to take risks. After all, the company is known for producing cheaply made films in turn for a high-grossing result. They would not risk the Grinch actually abusing his loyal canine companion Max, or living in a cave that didn’t look like it came out of a “Love It or List It” episode. After all, what child growing up in an era of SJW politics and blatant liberalism would want to see that? (Please take this statement of as bit of satire, as I find it absolutely jaw-dropping that people actually express sentiments under the likes of this.) By removing the Grinch’s core purpose, the character itself loses its meaning. If he was already affectionate in the start of the movie, why would a greater display of affection in the later third of the film make his transition anymore fantastical? In short, it doesn’t, and it makes the scene where his heart grows three sizes fall completely flat on its face.
This film has also sparked a decent size of outrage online. Many fear that by making the Grinch more attractive (in comparison to past films) and voicing him by British babe Cumberbatch, there will be an aggressive fanbase similar to that of Ed Helm’s Lorax character, the Once-ler. Any individual on the internet must know by now, however, that no character is omitted from this kind of treatment, and it should come as no shock that the Grinch was the next one in line.
I believe I stated the negatives long enough. And yet, it was intentional, as every other aspect of the film is done beautifully. The animation is crisp, stunning, detailed, intricate. The characterization of Cindy Lou Who and her friends (though somewhat inane and rather pointless) was endearing as well as funny. The pacing, comedy, and camera shots all complimented one another gorgeously. Adding the element of an emotionally-damaged Grinch reinvented his character like no other before him, and though many may not like it, I prefer his more slightly anxious and charming disposition over the original, 9 times out of ten.
The 2018 Grinch is not without its flaws, and yet in themselves, they are the very things that make the film into an entirely new creation that I will treasure for many Christmas’s to come.