(LOOTPRESS) – The Grinch is a character which has become increasingly iconic over time. First introduced in Dr. Seuss’ 1957 holiday classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the character has since been portrayed in various forms of media including television and film.
The character was most recently brought to the silver screen in 2018’s The Grinch, also known as Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, with the titular character portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock and Doctor Strange fame.
As is to be expected when generationally beloved source material becomes the subject of tampering, not everyone welcomed the modern-day adaptation with open arms – an understandable position given the seemingly endless stream of misguided, ill-conceived, half-baked remakes to emerge from the film industry in recent years.
The lore of the character was expanded upon throughout the 1970s and 1980s with the production of two Emmy Award winning television specials, Halloween Is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat.
Much attention was drawn to the character with the release of the 2000 feature film How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey – the first full-length feature film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book, followed only by 2003’s much maligned The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers.
The 2000 adaptation was a hit at the box office despite some critics taking issue with the film’s somewhat dark take on the subject matter. Carrey’s committed take on the character of The Grinch received widespread praise and the film has become a modern holiday mainstay since its release.
2018’s animated adaptation of the classic tale was met with speculation by some, but is a production which is clearly looking to forge its own path.
Many viewers noted, for example, that Cumberbatch – taking on an American accent for the role – eschews attempts to take on The Grinch’s vocalizations in the style of the original Grinch, Boris Karloff, as any attempt to surpass beloved original would in all likelihood have been a fool’s errand.
Instead, Cumberbatch’s presentation exhibits a certain nervousness; an uncertainty which immediately makes the character more believable from the perspective of the viewer hoping to understand his motivations. Because after all,The Grinch has always been the protagonist of his own story, if somewhat of an anti-hero.
But Universal Pictures’ re-telling of this classic tale allows the viewer to get a glimpse of themselves in the character of The Grinch, making it possible for the viewer to actually sort of root for a character which, up this point, has been presented primarily as a genuinely evil, mysterious entity with little in the way or rational motivation for his actions and beliefs aside from mere malice and contempt.
Here we get a guy simply trying to live his life in solitude. He makes trips to the grocery store, has his coffee in the morning, and tends to his dog Max. Speaking of Max, the limited but obvious compassion shown by The Grinch for his furry pal throughout this production go a long way in demonstrating a decency inherent within the cantankerous cartoon crook.
The Grinch’s acquisition of portly reindeer Fred is his conquests and subsequent reluctant yet sincere acceptance of the creature as part of his day-to-day life – including allotting him – along with Max – the lion’s share of the sleeping area which is normally off-limits to pets altogether. Furthermore, The Grinch is quick to put aside his own desires for the well-being of Fred, who is revealed to have a family to whom he must return prior to the Grinch’s infamous Christmas Eve excursion.
Finally, upon realizing the error of his ways and ultimately returning the Christmas which he stole, The Grinch delivers what feels like a genuinely heartfelt apology. He doesn’t expect acceptance; he doesn’t expect to be embraced by the Who community; he simply does what he feels is right for no other reason than because it’s what he feels is right rather than as part of a means of securing some reward, which is the definition of integrity.
The character is humanized further upon being invited to dinner with the citizens of Whoville through a hopeful anxiousness and eventual embrace of his newfound place as part of the community.
A common internet trope is that “The Grinch didn’t hate Christmas, he hated people – which is understandable.” But this theory isn’t quite fully formed. The Grinch himself asserts by the film’s end that it was not in fact Christmas which he hated, but being alone; this, one can speculate, is no far cry from the experience of many folks who dread the holiday season for one reason or another.
Elevated by music from seasoned pro Danny Elfman, the film is also modernized through a committed performance from Pharrell as the narrator and quirky, genre-bending original music from Tyler, The Creator which legitimately somehow works in the context of the movie.
Sharp writing and unpredictable laughs keep the proceedings feeling fresh throughout, and though some of the character explorations outside those of the main protagonist can feel extraneous – looking at you, Cindy Lou Who and group of friends – many of the newly introduced side-characters offer genuine smiles – Keenan Thompson’s jolly Bricklebraum is a welcome addition and takes some of the weight off the shoulders of poor Max in terms of bringing levity and comedic relief to the occasionally weighty subject matter.
More than anything, 2018’s The Grinch exhibits an admirable amount of heart, particularly for a modern-day remake of a timeless classic. And even if the film isn’t entirely necessary per se, is any film truly necessary? In any case, The Grinch serves as delightful holiday viewing for the whole family, and is a more than serviceable vehicle for introducing upcoming generations to a classic and beloved name in literature, television, and film.
Additional LOOTPRESS film commentary can be found here.