Courtesy of Illumination Entertainment
From the beginning I knew issues were certain to arise with Illumination's newly renovated Dr Seuss’ classic ‘The Grinch.’ Setting aside your qualms with the poorly received 2001 Jim Carrey live action vehicle (If backed into a corner, I could defend it) the animated giant responsible for sedating your toddlers with frisky Minions now can add the grizzly, green, Christmas hating curmudgeon to their repertoire.
Unlike its contemporaries, Illumination never strives for artistic integrity. Rather they keep a steady pace flowing and hope to god your kids don’t grow restless. They do this by throwing so much on screen that, hopefully, something sticks. Those same cost effective methods of producing films are on display in “The Grinch,” though, with as good as the source material is, it’s truly hard for anyone to screw it up horribly.
Visually, “The Grinch” might be the sharpest this studios animation’s ever looked. Adding spurts of life into a glossy palette of eye candy. Taking on voice over duties for this adventure is Steven Strange himself Benedict Cumberbatch, who is doing his best to tow the line between crude and obnoxious. When the jokes fall flat (and they do, often) - Cumberbatch is there to help steer the wheel into realism. Kudos to the Marvel alum for selling the transformation.
Seeing as how the original 1966 classic was only 26 minutes long (which is the perfect runtime in this case) it’s easy to see why “The Grinch” fails. It tries to stretch out material into a feature length journey with subplots that scarcely develop and characters never becoming fully realized. As for the plot structure, The Grinch is just about the same as before, living in isolation on a stoic mountain above Whoville: A utopia where Christmas is the Super Bowl of holidays and every Who celebrates it as such. Really, it's just a chaotic grabag of cheer that wears thin quickly.
Along with his trusty, admidditly adorable, canine Max - The Grinch doesn't befriend anyone. They say it’s because his heart is two sizes too small, or it has something to do with his childhood dissatisfaction with the holiday - which propels his snarky attitude. We see a glimpse into his early days, and that alone would be enough to fuel the first hour or so of groundwork. However, the filmmakers insist on throwing Cindy Lou-Hoo (voiced by Cameron Seely) and her squad of elementary aged buddies into the mix, who are attempting to trap Santa, so Cindy can make a last second Christmas wish on behalf of her mom (voiced by Rashida Jones). Despite each of these tykes lack of character development, they still ostensibly serve a purpose. Cindy, for example, is able to put some tender love and care back into the Grinch's driveled up heart.
Aside from that, the basic plotting stays intact. The Grinch plans to rob everyone of their goodies while they rest for the big night, and to its credit, the sequence where the Grinch makes a dash for the possessions (equipped with sneaky gadgets that would make James Bond blush) is a fun one. If there's one strength that Illumination can bring to the table, it's keeping a frantic rhythm.
You know the story, and I’m sure the comic violence and slapstick humor will produce massive giggles from your kiddos, and their are far worse things in this world than a film trying to superimpose a message of kindness down our throats. And on those merits “The Grinch” just barley gets the job done. Not so much because we care about the characters, but because the wholesomeness of Dr. Seuss remains timeless.