THE GRINCH is the latest from director Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Free Birds), which brings the classic Dr Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas! to life in Illumination Entertainment’s signature 3D computer animation style. The film features the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation), Angela Lansbury (Mary Poppins Returns), Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live!) and performer Pharrell Williams as the Narrator.
The film opens up a few days prior to Christmas day as Whoville starts preparing for the most wonderful time of the year. The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) is trying his darnedest to avoid the Christmas festivities but, due to a significant period of emotional eating, he is forced to go to town to replenish his food stores with his beloved canine pal Max. While there he discovers through an overly obsessive Christmas fan that Whoville is planning on making this year’s Christmas three times bigger. This pushes his hatred of Christmas over the edge and he ends up hatching up a plan. No one in Whoville is allowed to enjoy Christmas this year and, in order to do that, he plans to dress up as Santa Claus and steal all of the presents and decorations from Whoville before they wake up on Christmas Day.
While The Grinch is dealing with his plotting and Christmas hating shenanigans, this adaptation focuses a significant amount of time on Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), a young girl with a love for adventure and hockey. She spends the next couple of days leading up to Christmas trying to plan a way to talk to Santa Claus in person. Her mother (Rashida Jones) works so hard and Cindy Lou is worried that she isn’t as happy as she says she is. Her plan to meet up with Santa Claus ends up bringing her into The Grinch’s crosshairs and ultimately shifts the course of the film when the two plans collide.
I will admit that it was difficult for me to truly figure out how to tackle the subject of horror within the context of THE GRINCH. It is obviously a children’s holiday story that ends on a very happy note. However, after much reflection, I found that perhaps the true focus on horror that we could pull from this tale is how envy, loneliness, and selfishness can make us commit horrible acts when pushed hard enough. In this iteration of THE GRINCH, we discover the root of the titular character’s hatred of Christmas. No one ever celebrated Christmas with him and as an orphan, all he could do was watch as all the happy Who families celebrated with one another. Abandoned and alone, he came to associate Christmas with these painful feelings and seeks to avoid Christmas everything so as to avoid those feelings.
However, because of Whoville desiring to make Christmas three times bigger during the events of the film, The Grinch cannot avoid what is arguably a traumatic triggering time for him. So, what does he do? He decides that no one else can be happy over Christmas and that he must take it away. It’s that all adage of if I can’t have something, then no one can. And that mindset is dangerous. However, The Grinch is able to see the horror of his actions thanks to the pure bean that is Cindy Lou Who. That is the light within the horror that could be dug up from this film.
Overall, I think the team behind this adaptation of THE GRINCH has managed to update it enough to appeal to modern audiences in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the story. Even though the classic animated TV movie and the 2003 live action adaptation with Jim Carrey loom large in the memory, this adaptation by Illumination Entertainment finds a way to tell the story anew and seeks to provide more depth to the titular Grinch while also expanding Cindy Lou Who’s role in the story. These two factors are what keep me drawn to this film and perhaps should be something that audiences consider when they go view it.
THE GRINCH stomps its way into theaters on November 9, 2018.