November 1st is the unofficial start of the holiday season, allowing retailers an extra few weeks to capitalize on people’s desire to bankrupt themselves buying gifts, decorations and other things they don’t really need. I’m not sure if it’s the twinkling lights or the unapologetically jolly Christmas music that trigger this holiday-laced trance. Personally, I abhor the Christmas in November trend, especially as it fights to turn Thanksgiving—my favorite holiday—into an afterthought.
That said, I’m no Grinch. I love Christmas just as much as the next reasonably sane person. In fact, one of my most cherished childhood memories was when I saw Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas in theaters with my family. Howard’s live-action version of the Dr. Seuss classic was mischievous, magical and most importantly, heartfelt. Sadly, Illumination Entertainment’s The Grinch is none of those things. Instead, it’s an uninspired, forgettable entry into the Seuss canon.
In The Grinch, the Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) vows to ruin Christmas for the inhabitants of Whoville. Unbeknownst to him, Cindy Lou Who, wearer of pigtails, formulates a plan to intercept Santa Claus on Christmas Eve so that she can persuade him to grant her a special wish. Ultimately, with help from Cindy Lou and Max, the Grinch’s loyal dog, the Grinch comes to understand the true meaning of Christmas. In addition to Cumberbatch, other actors such as Rashida Jones (Donna Lou Who), Kenan Thompson (Bricklebaum), Angela Lansbury (The Mayor of Whoville), and relative newcomer Cameron Seely (Cindy Lou Who) lend their voices to the animated movie.
The Grinch is more true to Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! than Ron Howard’s version and the movie suffers because of it. Similar to the book, the Grinch and Cindy Lou only cross paths maybe three or four times throughout the movie and feel a little more than strangers when celebrating at the end. What stuck with me the most from the Howard version was the burgeoning friendship between the Grinch and Cindy Lou. As a twelve-year-old, watching Cindy Lou persist despite the Grinch’s repeated rejection of her love and acceptance was surprisingly impactful. It’s unfortunate that The Grinch spent more time highlighting cheap jokes than developing the Grinch and Cindy Lou’s relationship.
That said, I think kids and parents alike will enjoy the latest reimagining of the Seuss classic. There are a few funny moments, particularly between the Grinch, Max, and Fred. Ultimately, The Grinch is cute and affable enough to put even the biggest Christmas naysayer into the holiday spirit.