There is a new Grinch hitting theaters, and you'll be glad to know that it's a cute little family film that echoes some of the joys of the original TV special from 1966, and steers clear of the abomination that was the Jim Carrey version in 2000.
"Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" is a joyful bundle from the Illumination animation folks, who have given us the "Despicable Me" and "Minions" films and visited Seussland before in "The Lorax." It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the grouchy green guy who can't stand all the happy Whos down in Whoville.
Do we need or want a new "Grinch"? Well. Um. There are two schools of thought about all these remakes, reboots and do-overs.
No. 1: People who cherish the original film are protective of its sanctity and do not want to see its memory sullied by careless Hollywood profiteers.
No. 2: Hollywood will remake any film anywhere any time. Studio heads also argue that they are introducing the story to a whole new generation. And, if we can have 17 Batmans, 23 Spider-Mans and endless "Pirates of the Caribbean," why not another Grinch?
Cumberbatch was an inspired choice as the lead voice, as he segues easily from sneers and jeers, to pitiless plotter, to befuddled inventor of "gizmos and gazmos." The animators went with a more cute-cuddly, light green Grinch, even though he pulls on his "very miserable" furry pants each day over his tighty-whities.
Once again, we find him living a life of isolation, save for his trusty dog Max. Whoville is a bright, snow-drenched town filled with sledders and skaters who are all ga-ga over the impending Christmas Day. To alleviate the agony of all the cheeriness, the Grinch gets a "wonderful, awful" idea. He will dress up as Santa and make the rounds on Christmas Eve to all the Who houses, stealing every last gift, tree and decoration.
But he is not the only schemer. Little Cindy-Lou Who (voice of Cameron Seely) is determined to meet Santa and sets a trap. Her motivation is to help her frazzled mom Donna Who (Rashida Jones), who works all night and cares for Cindy-Lou and her twin brothers all day.
Whoville revelers also include Mr. Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), Mayor McGerkle (Angela Lansbury) and Groopert (Tristan O'Hare).
Co-directors Yarrow Cheney (also the chief character designer) and Scott Mosier, along with screenwriters Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow, honor the spirit and rhythmic cadences of Dr. Seuss' book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," first published in 1957.
The narrator this time is Pharrell Williams. It's hard to top Boris Karloff, however, the narrator (and Grinch voice) from the 1966 TV special. His tones were perfectly menacing and devious, and he is a huge reason why the original stands as such an enduring classic. It also helped that directors Chuck Jones and Ben Washam brought loads of sassy humor and playfulness from their years making Warner Bros. cartoons. Part of its brilliance was also in its brevity: The original ran 25 minutes.
For the generation that grew up with Jim Carrey's Grinch, I'm sorry. That film, directed by Ron Howard was a misguided concoction. The New York Times called it "shrill, overstuffed and spiritless." Critic Roger Ebert deemed it "dank, eerie and weird." He also said that with "his pig-snout nose and Mr. Hyde hairdo," Carrey's mugging Grinch "looked more like a perverse Wolfman than the hero of a comedy."
Thankfully, the new "Grinch" steps out from under that shadow to provide some clever laughs and sweet moments. The 2018 version gives us a kinder, gentler Grinch. And his exploits remind us that "maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a little bit more."
Clint O'Connor covers pop culture. He can be reached at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.