By John H. Foote
The green guy is so much a part of the holiday season, it is tough to write a review for this good looking, but empty new film. Using CGI this time, the creators have crafted a fine looking movie that sadly has too much unnecessary filler to get it to feature film size.
The 1966 TV classic, voiced by the great Boris Karloff, remains a classic, one of the greatest holiday classics in TV history, certainly part of nearly every North American kid’s childhood. With his lovely expressive voice, Karloff both narrated and brought the voice of the Grinch to life. Years later Ron Howard attempted a live-action feature film, hoping Jim Carey could pull it off. Fleshing the story out with background as to why he so hated Christmas, which permitted Christine Baranski to give an overly sexual performance, hurt the movie. The greatest trouble, however, was Carrey’s out of control mugging and wildly over the top performance. And did Howard search the earth for the cutest, most precocious Cindi Lou Who he could find? Geezus!!!!! Anthony Hopkins narrated the film, bringing none of the Karloff magic, some things were meant to be left alone. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) was a massive hit at the box office, but crucified by critics, and the DVD release felt like unnecessary torture for parents. I avoided the family room if I heard it was on, and it seemed always to be on.
GREAT THINGS SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE.
This new film softens the Grinch to something less sinister. He is more like a cranky green Daffy Duck than the Grinch of the book or the TV show. He is not that dark, but he still wants to steal Christmas from Whoville.
Living high in the clouds on Mount Crumpet, with his precious dog Max, a great deal of the story will be familiar to viewers.
Voiced by the dulcet tones of Benedict Cumberbatch, who is fun to listen too, the Grinch provides some laughs for the kids in preparing his scheme. There are some new plot developments to expand the story, though the main narrative does justice to the book. Wisely the makers of this moved away from the Howard film altogether. There is a Cindy Lou Who, older this time, less cute, a normal little girl, and the town of Whoville is a dazzling creation.
But the focus is on the green guy trying to ruin Christmas.
Kids will love it, adults will endure and can be consoled by the fact it is not nearly as annoying as the Howard film.
One thing that really bugged me. When you have an iconic tune like “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”, do not, under any circumstances…blow it. In blowing that, they helped to blow their own movie.
Well done Mr. Cumberbatch, those two measly stars are for you.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.