Arts movie review

‘The Grinch’ is a heartwarming yet fresh take on a classic story

Human interactions and an excellent soundtrack elevate this rendition of the Christmas fable to a new height

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Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch.
Courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

The Grinch
Directed by Yarrow Cheney
Screenplay by Michael LeSieur
Starring Rashida Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tristan O’Hare
Rated PG, Now Playing

A green furry man attempts to exorcise his loneliness by picking on villagers. After he carries out his big plan, the man learns the spirit of Christmas.

This is the heart of the story. A significant presumption is that we will find the antics of a sour hermit interesting to watch. Also at risk is that the movie collapses into sentimentality. Yet somehow, Yarrow Cheney’s The Grinch just works.

The Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is a sweetheart in disguise. While the Grinch in Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas is strange and dark, coming across as creepy in a way that is difficult to sympathize with, Cumberbatch’s Grinch is cynical and childish but also — crucially — worthy of sympathy. Cumberbatch’s Grinch may refuse the greetings of the townspeople and steal their presents, but his difficulty in saying the word ‘Christmas’ and his hatred of Christmas music are convincingly explained by his past. What remains is a man who builds a series of contraptions for his dog Max, and who cares enough to apologise to Max when he realises he has been unkind.

Animals bring humor to the film. The enormous reindeer Fred, Max, and, at one point, even a screaming goat, all act as foils to the Grinch’s surly outlook. Aside from the slapstick humor that brings the Grinch back to earth, there is something inexplicably funny and heartwarming about how earnestly the Grinch treats the animals around him. It only makes sense when you realize they’re the closest things he has to family. Without the humor injected by these animals, The Grinch would not soar to the heights that it does.

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning. Tyler the Creator’s music makes several appearances in the film, his parent-approved but no less hard-hitting verses adding a contemporary flair to the movie. In the Grinch’s intro song, Tyler raps “Who is this mean fellow/ With his skin all green and his teeth all yellow?” and I can’t help my smile. I like this rendition of Christmas.