â€˜The Grinchâ€™ Review: Youâ€™re a Mediocre One, Mr. Grinch
New animated take on the Dr. Seuss classic â€” featuring Benedict Cumberbatch â€” wonâ€™t make you green with envy
Hereâ€™s the perfect, computer-animated holiday fun for kids of all ages â€” preferably under five, when bright, swirling colors are all we need to distract us. Older children are apt to be skeptical. And anyone past voting age may need to be seriously stoned to swallow it. Donâ€™t get me wrong: Itâ€™s not that the story canâ€™t be done right outside of the classic 1957 Seuss book. The gold standard remains the wickedly whimsical 1966 TV version from director Chuck Jones, with an unapologetically nasty Boris Karloff voicing the mean, green Xmas-hating machine. And the latestÂ GrinchÂ is nowhere near as insufferable as Ron Howardâ€™s 2000 live-actionÂ How the Grinch Stole ChristmasÂ with Jim Carrey hyperventilating (donâ€™t call it acting) as the G-man.
This new version from Illumination Entertainment â€” best known forÂ Despicable MeÂ andÂ SingÂ â€” adds an hour of stuffing to a film thatâ€™s designed to offend no one or stick in the memory more than a few seconds after you see it. Voicing the Grinch this time isÂ Benedict Cumberbatch, the brilliant British star ofÂ Sherlock HolmesÂ using an American accent. Which begs the question: Why not just hire an American actor? Were Bill Murray and Bill Hader not available? Just sayinâ€™.
In any event, the Grinch is still green but way less mean in his latest incarnation. Those expecting Cumberbatch to add a littleÂ Dr. StrangeÂ to his take on Dr. Seuss will be sorely disappointed. Directors Scott Mosier (making his feature debut) and Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) play it safe straight down the line. Yes, he will dress as Santa Claus to steal all the goodies. But how to make a whole movie out of that?
You donâ€™t, so the script by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow brings on the padding. The Grinch gets a backstory to explain how he got grinchy. To humanize him further, thereâ€™s Cindy-Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely), a cute tyke with just one request for â€œSantaâ€ (you-know-who in disguise): Make a better life for her hard-working single mom (Rashida Jones). Try objecting to that.
To add to the modern touches no one asked for, Tyler the Creator becomes the Grinchâ€™s rap surrogate (â€œAll them smiles homie, I turn â€™em to frowns / All them decorations, I tear â€™em downâ€) and Pharrell Williams offers a rhyming narration. Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, died in 1991, sparing him having to endure the alleged improvements to his classic. Still, thereâ€™s no denying thatÂ The GrinchÂ offers a solid service to anyone with kids in need of a nap under a blanket of bland.