Film: The Grinch
Cast: (Voices) Benedict Cumberbatch, Pharrell Williams, Cameron Seely
Director: Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney
Rating: * * * *
Of the several screen adaptations of Theodor Geisel’s story of the titular curmudgeon, I’m afraid I can only remember the one voiced by Jim Carey. Now along comes Benedict Cumberbatch who makes the grouch his own, emitting plenty of mean-spirited statements which go over the head of his dog Max who loves unconditionally. Just like The Reason for the Season who is nowhere in the screenplay except for a couple of (beautifully sung) carols. Oh well.
The script, written by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow, veers off a good bit too from the original source material by Geisel who wrote his story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” in 1957, inspired no doubt by the characters of Scrooge and Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic “A Christmas Carol.” If Scrooge’s fatal flaw is miserliness, the Grinch suffers from an abhorrence of people. Only, in this adaptation, he’s no recluse but a mean green creature who emerges from his mountain cave into the town of Whoville to play nasty tricks wherever he can.
Cindy Lou (voiced by Cameron Seely) is not a tiny tot but a smart schoolgirl with a heart of gold. Like Tiny Tim, she plays an important role in the Grinch’s transformation and redemption. As she says in a key sequence, “the Grinch didn’t steal Christmas! He only stole stuff!” This and other heart-warming, life-affirming messages make this beautifully animated film sparkle and shine like the fairy lights festooned across Whoville.
And as it turns out, the Grinch doesn’t really detest humankind. And if he did really hate people for a bit, the backstory explains why his heart shrivelled. But it takes him a while to figure this out with help from Cindy Lou who is the epitome of kindness and goodwill. As the Good Book says, “A little child shall lead them.”