[ADAPTATIONS] The Grinch is a heartwarming film, but offers nothing new


Illumination and Universal Pictures

The Grinch is a fun, heartwarming, and well-made film that would be a fun outing for the whole family.

Dr. Seuss’s timeless classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, first hit shelves in 1957, and is still read by countless children and adults alike each holiday season. The picture book is arguably one of Seuss’s most famous stories, having been adapted three times for film and television. The first of these adaptations was a half-hour television special from 1966 starring Boris Karloff. In 2000, Ron Howard remade the story into a film starring Jim Carrey, which was met by mediocre reviews and was not a very good adaptation. The third and most recent adaptation was a computer-animated film released in November of 2018 starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character.

The classic story of the creature who tries to ruin the Christmas of a nearby town and learning what the holiday really means is told surprisingly well in 2018’s The Grinch. The new film was produced by Illumination, the company responsible for the Despicable Me franchise, and the latest Seuss film, The Lorax, from 2012. While The Lorax was only somewhat well received, Seuss’s widow, Audrey Geisel, granted all further rights to Dr. Seuss properties to the studio after the film.

The Grinch is a surprising turnaround for feature-length Dr. Seuss film, by giving viewers a visually interesting and genuinely heartfelt film that stays relatively true to the story and morals of the original book. It’s clear the filmmakers wanted to tell Seuss’s story while still making it their own. For a nice change, The Grinch doesn’t resort to making pop culture references or potty humor like most animated kids films these days. The original plot remains relatively unchanged, with only a few minor alterations. The film clearly had to add some material for a longer running time, given that the original book barely made a half-hour television special, but the additions fit with the tone and style of the source material, even the surprisingly fitting backstory.

Benedict Cumberbatch does a reasonably good job as the Grinch, channeling the classic performance from Boris Karloff and putting his own spin on it. Cumberbatch completely loses his accent and adopts an almost unrecognizable voice to play the character, giving the green monster a tone that can be equally scary and emotional at times.

The colorful animation also lends its way to Seuss’s drawing style, with the stylized look of the world being wonderfully emulated in the computer-generated animation. The classic character design of the Grinch and the Who’s is also translated well to the screen. Instead of looking scary like the Who makeup in the Ron Howard film, the Who’s look like the classic characters from Seuss’s world because of the animation style. The Grinch’s classic green look is brought to the screen very similarly to the original television special, which was the first instance of the character’s color.

The one area the film falls flat is its theme song. The classic song, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” has been brought back along with other classic music from the television special, but is completely butchered by hip-hop artist Tyler, the Creator, who was clearly not the right choice for modernizing the tune. Tyler, the Creator and composer Danny Elfman collaborated on the updated theme song, which features a chorus of children’s voices and a strange hip-hop beat with out-of-tune vocals that completely lose any shred of sinisterness from the original recording.

The film is strangely rated PG, despite almost nothing in the film that would qualify it for that rating. Seuss’s work is supposed to be stories for all ages, so suggesting that this film would need parental guidance seems like an odd choice.

Overall, the film is quite well done, although somewhat unnecessary. With one perfectly good pre-existing adaptation of this story, this film certainly doesn’t need to exist, and it doesn’t do anything special the original didn’t do. However, it is a fun, heartwarming, and well-made film that would be a fun outing for the whole family.


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