The Grinch Review
The Grinch is a tale that’s been told once or twice,
though the box office suggests the films were never nice.
But they brought in Illumination, two Americans, and a Brit
who give this film heart, and a terrible wit!
In the days leading up to Christmas, the Whos of Whoville are teeming with Christmas spirit. Among them little Who, Cindy-Lou (Cameron Seely), who schemes with her friends to capture Santa Claus so that she might ask him for a very special, though personal, wish. Little do they know that above them in Mount Crumpet someone else is scheming away. Whoville might be making Christmas three times bigger this year, but the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is having none of it. And if he can pull off his plan, with the help of his trusted dog Max, nobody else will either.
The directorial feature debut of Scott Mosier and only Yarrow Cheney’s second, following the mad-cap The Secret Life of Pets, The Grinch is welcomely suited for the style of this co-director duo. Seasoned Illumination player Cheney brings the dazzling designs and recognisable quaintness of the studio, while Mosier - who has produced a number of comedies - gives the adults in the audience the darker thematics of loneliness and the struggles (and joys) of parenthood to relate to, as well as some great laughs. Similarly, the distinctive animation style of Illumination is more than apt for Dr. Seuss’ quirky characters.
Every frame showing the jolly town of Whoville is wrung dry of its Christmas potential - bright lights adorn every building, giant snowmen and Santas sit proudly in the snow, and everywhere the cheery (and oddly hairy) Whos bustle around collecting Christmas presents and rare-Who-beasts for Christmas dinner. Unsurprisingly Cheney’s background is in animation and production design. “My eyes are burning,” sneers the Grinch at seeing the decorations. Ours too Grinch, ours too. In contrast, the cave that is home to our green friend is starkly sombre. Up in the blustery mountains, everything about his lair makes you feel as cold as the Grinch’s heart. These two sides of the world further cement the two halves of this story; the joy of Christmas and the heartache of loneliness.
Although the marketing for The Grinch has been one of the best campaigns I’ve ever seen (the mean-messaged billboards and hilarious teasers are just inspired - appealing to adults as much as the kids) many of the bigger laughs have been spoiled by it. The opening sequence plays almost exactly like the main trailer, the punchlines, later on, are undeniably less punchy. That isn’t to say they don’t make a mark - they certainly do - but they just hit a spot already marked, good jokes just heard before.
The supporting cast are all equally decent, but no character is given half as much screen time (or dialogue) than the Grinch himself. It’s the only place where the balance isn’t quite right. When Cindy-Lou shows up you’re almost taken aback, having forgotten that she’s a part of this tale. But the Grinch is the best thing about this film, he’s the reason we’re all there, so his almost constant presence isn’t unwelcome. The Grinch is as grouchy as you could hope for: Cumberbatch delivers each snide comment with just the right amount of self-deprecating humour and snarky wit, and every moment of vulnerability with an endearing delicacy. Really, Cumberbatch sounds like like he’s having the time of his life. And I was too.