Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a classic children’s book and animated TV special that has been delighting audiences for over fifty years.
Illumination thought a feature length remake was a good idea. As such, we now have Benedict Cumberbatch as The Grinch.
Just about everyone knows the basic story of the Grinch, but it comes down to this: the Grinch is a cranky, mean green guy who lives in a lonely cave overlooking Whoville. His only companion is his loyal dog Max, and he really hates Christmas. Every year, the Whos down in Whoville celebrate with a lot of noise that bothers the Grinch, so one day he decides to steal Christmas and save himself the annoyance of the Whos’ annual celebration by posing as Santa Claus and swiping every Christmas-type thing he can find.
So, yeah, that’s more or less what happens here with the usual padding given to make a children’s book of less than 30 pages somehow into a feature length movie, even this one that clocks in at just under an hour and a half. So, that means giving characters like Cindy Lou Who something of a backstory, showing the Grinch’s childhood, tossing in an overweight reindeer named Fred, and a whole lot of other stuff that made the movie less special given how cliche it seemed.
And then there’s Cumberbatch.
Now, Cumberbatch is actually rather inspired casting. Any remake of the Grinch story is going to draw comparisons to the 1966 animated TV version, and the original featured the late, great Boris Karloff as both the Grinch and the narrator. Karloff gave the Grinch a bit of cruel menace and the narrator a smooth, friendly style. His voice was distinctive in every speaking role he ever had. Cumberbatch himself also has a distinctive voice that, you know, would probably work out great for the Grinch.
Too bad he doesn’t use his regular speaking voice here. I have heard Cumberbatch do other voices, but the voice here sounds like it could be anybody, so why does he do a higher pitched, more cartoon-y voice? It made me think they didn’t even need Cumberbatch if they weren’t going to use his distinctive voice.
As it was, the movie largely bored me, and I felt myself nodding off once or twice during the Cindy Lou Who scenes. 6 out of 10 wasted Angela Lansbury cameos.