The Grinch

 

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Dr Seuss’ beloved festive misanthrope is given the full-scale computer-animated treatment in a so-so rendition with three or four laughs.

  

Grinch, The

 
‘Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot. But The Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did NOT! The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason…’

 

Just as the spirit of Christmas is routinely rebutted and salvaged in A Christmas Carol, so American children have been traditionally forced to endure the splenetic shenanigans of The Grinch – before he, too, sees the light. Originally conceived by the inexplicably popular Dr Seuss (aka Theodor Geisel), The Grinch started out as a cautionary children’s story written entirely in rhyme. Entitled How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and accompanied by sketchy, ungainly illustrations, the 1957 book became a firm favourite in the psyche of America’s young. Its reputation was further cemented by the indelible, 26-minute TV cartoon of 1966, narrated by Boris Karloff. Then, in 2000, Ron Howard directed a full-length, live-action edition with Jim Carrey in the title role, a version so awful that it made one’s toes curl. But at least Jim Carrey was funny – up to a point.

 

We now have a full-length computer-animated rendition from Illumination, the studio that brought us Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax and Minions. So we shouldn’t expect charm or sophistication. What we get is an unsettling mix of nonchalant cruelty and glucose toxicity. Who-ville itself is a gloopy bastion of cheer and consumerism, while The Grinch, holed up in his high-tech retreat 3,000-ft above town, dreams up ways to destroy his neighbours’ Christmas. One can’t blame him. In this account, he enlists the help of dozy, outsize reindeer, Fred, along with his mysteriously loyal dog, Max. His wheeze is to dress up as Santa Claus and rob every household of its trees, presents and decorations.

 

Under the direction of Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney, there is some visual ingenuity, as well as a handful of funny moments. But it’s not enough to redeem the glucose poisoning, or the disturbing misanthropy of the hairy green Scrooge – green with envy for others’ happiness. He’s given a lively reading by Benedict Cumberbatch, which goes some way in rectifying the Americanisation of Winnie-the-Pooh in Disney’s Christopher Robin. But Cumberbatch lays on an American accent with glee and with the film raking in $60 million on its opening weekend in the US alone, it is likely to become his most successful starring role to date. One doesn’t know what to say, really.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams.

 

Dir Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier, Pro Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, Screenplay Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow, Pro Des Colin Stimpson, Ed Chris Cartagena, Music Danny Elfman.

 

Universal Pictures/Illumination-Universal Pictures

86 mins. USA/China. 2018. Rel: 9 November 2018. Cert. U.