The Jakarta Post
Mr. Grinch is still mean, but in this third film adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ book How the Grinch Stole Christmas, he might be more human than we thought.
The green monster is returning to the silver screen after 18 years, this time in the form of 3D computer animation and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Not skewing far from the book, he is still the grumpy 53-year-old meanie who hates Christmas and everything it comes with.
The Grinch’s first scene, with rapper Tyler, The Creator’s rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” playing in the background, perfectly captures the famous character: his resting frown, protruding belly and a wild tuft of hair sprouting above his head.
Max is still the ever-so-loyal pet dog who puts up with his master’s demands. Little Cindy Lou, voiced by Cameron Seely, has an admirable motivation that drives her own storyline. She is accompanied by a gang of friends who help her pursue her goal.
The Whos of Whoville town are exactly as described in the book: merry, kind and cheerful. The contrast in character between them and the Grinch underlines just how mean the latter is. The supermarket sequence in the movie’s trailer shows only a few of the Grinch’s mean antics, though the pickle scene is definitely my pick for the nastiest scene in the whole movie.
There are three notable new characters. Cindy Lou’s mother Donna (Rashida Jones), is a single mom who is overwhelmed with her daily life, something that deeply concerns her daughter. Fred is a reindeer the Grinch caught to pull his sleigh after deciding to ruin the Whoville’s Christmas. Finally, Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson) is the jolliest resident of Whoville, who lives nearest to the Grinch’s lair and is very excited about the prospect of a Christmas celebration three times bigger than usual.
The common role these characters have is they show one of the two factors that sets The Grinch apart from the other adaptations and the original work, which is the Grinch’s humanity.
His interactions with these characters build little arcs of empathy and vulnerability, which eventually tie up to complete one big arc of a character development, different from the book or the 1966 adaptation, where he is absolutely mean before the epiphany to abruptly turn completely nice after. Simply put, his character feels human in this year’s movie.
What also makes this adaptation unique is the modernized visuals and design, perhaps to suit today’s young audience, from the mechanical contraptions on the Grinch’s sleigh to the 3D structure of Whoville. Illumination studio, which spawned the likes of Despicable Me and The Secret Life of Pets, puts a splendid touch on the 3D computer animation, as expected.
The Grinch has tons of comedic moments seemingly aimed at families. Some might be uncomfortable to some (for instance, Fred gets made fun of mostly for his weight), and lots of slapstick jokes are added for laughs.
Cumberbatch’s voice keeps the Grinch in ‘mean’ territory without being ‘menacing’. Thompson is perfect as Bricklebaum, and Seely’s Cindy Lou is surprisingly very effective in delivering various emotions without losing the angle of innocence.
Regardless of whether you have read the book or not, this movie is entertaining. Rhymes from the book are narrated by Pharell Williams word-by-word throughout the movie, so there is no need to read the book beforehand. The simple premise, the touching character interactions and the beautiful visuals are more than enough to brand The Grinch a must-see for families this Christmas. Also, extra points for the hilarious promotional billboards all over Los Angeles, United States, with the Grinch’s smug face and mean words plastered on them. (iru/wng)