If Walt Disney Animation built its reputation on fairy tales and princesses, is upstart animation house Illumination founded on supervillains? Four of its first eight cartoons are part of the Despicable Me family, detailing the adventures of a bad guy (reformed by his adoption of three girls) and his chattering minions (reformed, in a sense, by their goofball incompetence). Now the company has taken on the Dr. Seuss classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas, expanded in story but shortened in title to simply The Grinch. Its another movie focusing on a character who drips with self-regarding (and child-fascinating) malevolence and who, like Despicable Mes Gru, lets go of his evil ways rather easily.
The Grinch is only the third major adaptation of the Seuss book, coming along nearly 20 years after the last one. But because the initial 26-minute animated version is a holiday perennial made for television, the notion of remaking the story feels especially redundant. Illuminations Grinch doesnt distort the original, like Ron Howards garish eyesore of a live-action version. Nor does it put that story through an embarrassing process of faux-modernization, though there is a mirthless gag involving the Grinch wearing booty shorts and some particularly lazy, Sing-worthy song cues. (Finally, a Seuss adaptation with a snatch of Mambo No. 5!) If anything, this is a more meager, timid iteration of Seuss story, starting with the characterization of its famous antihero.
As the narrator, Pharrell Williams delivers Seusss sing-song rhymes beautifully, and the animation is tip-top. There are also a couple of corking scenes that put Cumberbatch to work. In the best of them, the Grinch ventures into town to do his groceries, stamping on the townsfolks Christmas cheer and merriment with malicious glee.
Image: Universal Pictures/Illumination EntertainmentThe Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) still lives in a mountainous cave overlooking cheery, Christmas-loving Whoville, seething with irritation as they tee up their lavish celebration, and still underappreciates his loyal, beleaguered dog, Max. But despite Cumberbatchs ability to radiate low-toned contempt, his flatly American-accented Grinch voice goes nasal with sarcastic complaints, as if doing a vague, less-gruff impression of live-action Grinch Jim Carrey. This Grinch barely registers as an outcast, as he reluctantly tromps into Whoville to go grocery shopping when necessary, even cringing through what seems like regular if unwanted conversation with a particularly jolly Who (Kenan Thompson, a minor delight). Throughout it all, Cumberbatch never summons a tone of mystery or otherworldliness. Hes the Grinch as a sitcoms cranky upstairs neighbor.
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It doesnt help that the filmmakers (who include, weirdly, longtime Kevin Smith producer Scott Mosier) are all too eager to tip their hands about the Grinchs appended backstory. This material is less egregious than the 2000 version but still dispiritingly rote: Why, perhaps the Grinch hates Christmas because he… had a sad Christmas experience as a child?! Granted, the Grinchs secret pain provides a lesson in empathy for the littlest viewers (never too early to learn some dime-store psychology!), and the movie presumably has to do something to pad a 64-page-book-turned-26-minute-cartoon into 80 minutes or so of movie. Those demands explain the numerous slapsticky vignettes of the Grinch preparing his big Christmas heist, and a subplot about Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) setting a trap for Santa so she can talk to him directly about getting some help for her single mom (Rashida Jones). Do even preschoolers require this much emotional nudging? At least Pharrell Williams provides some unforced warmth as the storys narrator.
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Los Angeles: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch says he could not say no to “The Grinch” when he got to know that the makers are planning to explore Grinchs back story. Illumination and Universals animated feature is based on Dr. Seuss beloved holiday classic. The original childrens book tells the tale of the titular grouch who plots to ruin Christmas for the residents of his neighbouring village of Who-ville.
The film opened in India on Friday. It has been brought to the country by Universal Pictures International India. Cumberbatch has voiced the iconic character of Grinch. “It was important to me that we told the story of someone who had a reason for his behaviour, before his conversion. I think everyone gets a vicarious thrill out of how the Grinch behaves, the curmudgeon-liness of the guy,” Cumberbatch said in a statement.
You can hang out with people and shoot the breeze and find life and everything absurd about it — especially with what were going through at the moment — funny, and make it into something that can be enjoyed rather than depressing. Thats a mark of friendship as well as anything else, and thats a great thing to have in a working collaboration. Ive been very lucky with the people that have asked me to work for them and vice versa, and this was no exception.
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“How this sort of over blown, over produced and over magnified elements of festivities around Christmas or Thanksgiving can just be a bit too much. Hes funny, and hopefully that is whats going to be memorable about this Grinch. Hes very witty and hes self-aware and there is however many sizes too small his heart is, there is a very strong beating heart to this,” he added.
The actor was also drawn towards the fact that it was a project by Illumination. “Their stable is filled to the rafters with fantastic films, and the movies are witty, smart, moving, and theres goodness in them,” said Cumberbatch.
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“With this film, they had great reverence for the original book, which I did, too. And theyre just great to collaborate with.” Actress Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely and Angela Lansbury are amongst the others who have lent their voice to the film.