The Grinch—he hates Christmas. He hates it a lot. He hates the decorations, the songs, the presents and especially those dreaded Christmas cookies! The whole holiday season just brings back bad childhood memories for him. And, even it if weren’t the Christmas season, he truly believes that, other than for his buddy Max and a local Who that he knows, he is better off alone.
But this year, Christmas is different in Whoville. It’s bigger and better. In fact, the mayor wants it 3x bigger than last year! “3 times bigger!” the Grinch thinks, “Why, oh why!” So he comes up with, a mean, old dastardly Grinch of a plan: stop Christmas from coming. But how, you might ask? He’s going to steal Christmas from the Whos—the decorations, the presents, the lights, all of it. Will he be able to pull it off?
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” is a tale that many of us could tell over and over again. Whether you are a fan of the original book or the Jim Carrey version(which I am a fan of, though perhaps I’m in the minority amongst critics), or this current re-telling, its classic tale of acceptance amongst difference, love triumphing against hate, and how even the most the unlikely person can have a change of heart when given the circumstances. All of these tellings relate values that “Dr. Seuss” (Theodor Seuss Geisel) wanted to ensure children continued to receive, regardless of who told the story (yes, you can even find some of that in the somewhat, more questionable Jim Carrey version).
I say this because when I walked into the theater this afternoon, I had low expectations for this film. Not because it was a children’s movie, but because it’s a story by Dr. Seuss, one of his most memorable, and one that, since it has been told before, needs to reach children in a new way, a way that will inspire a new generation to reach toward kindness and compassion toward others (especially in a time where hate and evil seem to be more and more prevalent in television and media), which is what The Grinch story is supposed to teach children in the first place.
To that end, I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this film. It definitely had more heart than I was expecting and far less questionable content that Illumniation’s other films (such as the “Despicable Me” franchise). When I say heart, I truly mean HEART, as I felt more for The Grinch in this story, as did many children I heard in the theater reacting to the scenes. The Grinch has a backstory that is relatable and understandable (though not justifiable) in his actions toward others. Additionally, throughout the film, we see true redemption in characters. It’s not shallow or forced upon the audience, and even made this reviewer, deep down, shed a tear.
Of course, none of this would matter, in my opinion, if the other cinematic aspects were strong, which they are. The performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of the crew is relatively strong, and the animation, as always, is simply beautiful. The pacing of the story is also relatively smooth, with an appropriate run time of 90 minutes.However, what is truly uplifting in this film is that messages and Christian themes are presented and promoted in a positive manner. For example, there is one scene in the film, as The Grinch is trying to steal a sleigh for his heist, where he peaks into a window of Whos gathered together, smiling, and singing “Silent Night,” reverently and respectfully, which effects The Grinch, as well, before he continues. Additionally, in other parts of the films, we see other Whos happily singing Christ-based Christmas carols to one another (“O Holy Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”). Again, this is done in a playful, but also respectful manner. This is encouraging, since these Christian themes do not appear in many secular children’s films these days.