The Grinch, as voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is too nice

Review: This is a far better film than the ghastly Jim Carrey vehicle released in 2000

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Grinch

Film Title: The Grinch

Director: Scott Mosier, Yarrow Cheney

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams

Genre: Family

Running Time: 86 min

Wed, Nov 7, 2018, 18:00

   

For those ill-served veterans of the ghastly Jim Carrey vehicle from the turn of the millennium – the late and unlovely Carressic period – we bring glad (and pre-seasonal) tidings. The Grinch, as rebooted by Illumination Entertainment – home of the Minion – is faithful to the aesthetic of the 1957 Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

At no point, however, would the viewer not be better off sitting down with Chuck Jones’ 1966 Grinch animation, featuring Boris Karloff as both the narrator and the voice of the Grinch.

Structurally, this perfectly amiable new film is jeopardised by a distinct lack of bah humbugging. The Grinch, as voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is too nice, too soft, too fuzzy from the get-go. He’s dotes on his loyal dog, Max. He spoils Fred, the fat reindeer he enlists into his Xmas-stealing scheme.

We’re told the Grinch’s heart is two sizes too small, but there’s not much in his interactions with the Whos of Whoville to support this abnormal cardiovascular theory.

The denizens of Whoville are even nicer again. Cindy Lou Who, the cute kid at the not undersized heart of the story, plans to accost Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, so that she can ask him to help her overworked single mom (Rashida Jones). Throughout, a jolly local Yuletider (Kenan Thompson) insists that the supposedly misanthropic titular character is his best friend.

It’s a short and simple movie which is a relief given the clutter of the 2000 version, not to mention Illumination’s last messy seasonally-themed entertainment, Hop.

Pharrell Williams’s pleasing narration preserves the rhyming couplets of Dr Seuss, though annoyingly not the text. How any writer imagined they could do better than immortal lines “He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!” is genuinely baffling.

No matter. As all-ages Christmas porn goes, it’s a huge improvement on last week’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.