Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a tortuous way to waste two hours depicting a classic story that’s only half-an-hour long. That experience meant I wasn’t planning to see Illumination’s newest adaptation, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch. Although I loved Carrey’s remarkable performance, the whole movie had way too much baggage to last 2 hours. It’s hard to pad onto a such a slim plot without killing the audience’s patience. I decided to give this third depiction a try after hearing Benedict Cumberbatch’s whiny Grinch voice.
Most everyone knows the plot of this story by Dr. Seuss via the 1966 animated special produced and directed by animation legend Chuck Jones with Boris Karloff as the Grinch, Thurl Ravenscroft as the baritone singer of the Grinch’s song, and June Foray as the voice of little Cindy Lou Who. The mean old grumpy Mr. Grinch hates Christmas and all things Christmas-y, so he sets out to steal Christmas from the nearby town of Whoville with his trusty dog Max. After he steals everything, he’s astonished to see Whoville still singing happily on Christmas Day, which makes him change his mind about taking the Whos’ Christmas things.
This version tells the same story, with much less padding to fill the 1.5 hour movie. In this version, the Grinch is actually quite a bit more lovable in an Oscar the Grouch sort of way compared to the other two adaptations (and the original book). He’s just a little grouchy and a bit lonely as we find out later. He lives alone in a cave with his dog Max, whom he just can’t seem to stay mad at. Max happily helps his master wake up in the morning via a masterful Rube Goldberg contraption designed by the Grinch himself, who turns out to be quite the handyman and inventor. We get to see the Grinch interact with the Whos when his food cupboard needs replenishing before he decides on the big Christmas heist. We also get to meet Cindy Lou Who on her quest to get a letter to Santa with only a wish to help her poor deluged mom. After deciding to steal Christmas from Whoville, with cute hilarity, the Grinch and Max hunt for a reindeer to pull their sled. If you’ve read the book or seen the original 1966 special, there will be few surprises in their ultimate failure in this endeavor. Along the way, we see glimpses of the Grinch’s childhood spent alone in a orphanage during Christmas that resulted in his demeanor today. Despite this, the Grinch seems to have a soft spot toward animals, who can’t help loving him for some reason.
The movie still drags, even though everything seems cheerier than any of the other depictions of the story. The colors are brighter than the original animated special and Carrey’s movie. Even the town of Whoville seems more magical this time. Pharrell Williams is also a kinder gentler narrator, and Tyler, the Creator’s version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” is quite catchy. And despite the drag created by the padded plot, I like how the movie dealt with the ending, which is extended to show more of the impact of the Grinch’s change of heart, even to the extent of apologizing to everyone for taking their stuff. No one in Whoville utters anything in anger toward the Grinch for his deed and instead happily accepts his repentance. Later, Cindy Lou personally invites the Grinch to dinner with everyone. He shows up a bit shy not knowing what to say, but everyone welcomes him warmly. During the credits scenes, we see the Grinch somewhat happily helping his fellow Whos. It’s a cute post-ending that goes beyond Christmas.
The moral Dr. Seuss wanted to tell from the story is that commercialism and presents are not what makes Christmas Christmas, but rather that what’s in people’s hearts make the season what it is. I think the moral gets a bit lost in the Carrey live-action version with its dark undertones in the Grinch’s backstory, but it’s quite well demonstrated in this telling. In all, I quite enjoyed this movie despite the padding.