Christmas, despite being the most wonderful time of the year, can be annoying. Whether it’s making small talk at work parties, dealing with your neighbours’ garish light displays or simply fetching the decorations from whichever corner of the loft you stashed them in, there’s plenty worth moaning about.
Perhaps that’s why the Grinch, Dr Seuss’ iconic character who despises all things festive, is so popular. We can all relate, just a little. In this latest version he’s voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, whose menacingly gruff sniggers and snooty tone suit the character down to the ground, as he bellows orders at his trusty dog Max, or snidely riffs on why the Whos — the holiday-loving beings who live nearby — are so detestable. But the Grinch’s mean-streak is significantly less-so here than in previous incarnations, which is disappointing given that’s where the most fun can be.
Its plot is uninventive, but The Grinch boasts some great visual gags.
Directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier (Kevin Smith’s producer in his feature-length directing debut) clearly set out to make a child-friendly movie. While succeeding on that front, they’ve also created a safe and often sickeningly sweet film that seems more concerned with pushing its message — that Christmas is about being with loved ones, not material gifts — than it is to adding anything new to a well-known story. This is a far different beast to its zany Ron Howard-directed predecessor, which dared to feature a disturbingly creepy Jim Carrey performance and a line about turning ponies into glue.
Although its plot is disappointingly uninventive, The Grinch does boast some great visual gags, with The Grinch setting his Christmas Eve schemes into motion an obvious highlight as he uses all manner of gadgetry, including light-up candy canes and collapsible stilts, to descend down the Whos’ chimneys to rid their homes of festive cheer.
It’s just a shame that this is the limit of the film’s ambition. If it had aimed higher, it could have been far more memorable. As it is, it’s no more than an engagingly colourful animation (with rhyming lifted straight from the book) that will play best to the kids.