THE GRINCH, US, 2018. Voices of: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seeley, Rashida Jones, Angela Lansbury, narrated by Pharrell Williams. Directed by Yaron Cheney, Scott Mosier. 90 minutes. Rated G.
The character of the Grinch, green and mean, has been very popular since he was invented by the famous storyteller, who provided so much entertainment for children, Dr Seuss. The Grinch is particularly associated with Christmas because the rest of the title is: How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Once upon a time, in 1966, it was Boris Karloff who played The Grinch on television. Some years ago, there was a live-action version of the story using the full title. And The Grinch was played, hairy, green and mean, by Jim Carrey, drawing on all his mannerisms, facial tics, menacing voice… This particular version, simply titled The Grinch, is very much G/PG rated, very much geared towards children (and pleasing for those who remember the story from childhood). The Grinch is voiced, American style, by Benedict Cumberbatch, Dr Seuss’s verses by singer, Pharrell Williams.
This is an animated film, the background of the town of Whoville situated in the mountains, in the winter, around Christmas. All very colourful. The townspeople are preparing for the celebration of Christmas, three times bigger than usual, the emphasis on gifts and goodwill. Even Angela Lansbury voices the mayor. (There is a pleasing brief sequence with reference to the Gospel story and the singing of carols and the basic meaning of Christmas.)
But, the Grinch! He is a misanthropic type, living in his cave on the mountain, shunning all human company, yet devoted to his dog, Max, who has all kinds of technical skills, especially with all the equipment in the Grinch’s house. Everybody, including The Grinch, likes Max a lot. He also befriends (if that is the word) Fred the large reindeer who actually comes in handily to help the Grinch.
The Grinch comes into town only when he needs food and is completely irritated by the loud and good feelings, made even worse at Christmas. There are amusing scenes about his dislike of people – and his meanness towards them. Then he decides to dress as Santa and steal all the Christmas gifts – which he does.
Happy ending was rather difficult with Jim Carrey and his Grinch weirdness. However, here, there is not only a happy ending but very explicit themes of redemption! The Grinch encounters a little girl, Cindy Lou, who pleads with him about the gifts, help for her mother, the joy that he is depriving the town of. At first, this is not really easy, and The Grinch entangles himself in problems and needs to be rescued.
But, ultimately, with a great deal of heart-thumping, very nice words, The Grinch discovers humanity and humanity within himself. Dr Seuss created what might be called “moral fables” – and this version ends exceedingly happily, exceedingly morally, gifts returned, peace restored, and great hope in view.
Universal Released November 29th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.