Usually when a savvy criminal goes on a crime spree, hitting many homes in one night, it’s the lead story on the morning news. Crimestoppers offers a reward. Police post a sketch and initiate a community dragnet. But in the remote, Christmas-lovin’ hamlet of Whoville, that’s not the case.
The retelling of the Dr. Seuss soft-on-crime classic modernizes the story. The animation is solid but not so awesome it’s a distraction. Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice embodies the Grinch. But one thing remains the same: Grinchy gets away with a crime spree that would put the Hollywood Bling Ring to shame.
Resentment & Revenge
The latest telling of the story borders on becoming an origin story. We find out why he has a lifelong resentment of ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ Instead of being presented as a green monster with an undersized heart (more on that to come), he’s shown as a citizen of Whoville living in a self-imposed exile.
As exile goes, his is pretty sweet. Sure he has to travel up mountains both ways to get supplies, but he has his faithful dog Max to do the heavy lifting. And it’s good training for when he’ll need to haul a town’s worth of presents and decorations up the aforementioned mountains.
We also meet Cindy-Lou Who’s family. She lives in Whoville with her younger twin brothers and their single mom. Mom works overnights and takes care of the fam, and Cindy-Lou is desperate to tell Santa of her plight and use her Christmas wish to make things better for Mom.
Filling out the principal characters makes this a much better telling of the Grinch & Cindy-Lou’s story. We already knew Benedict Cumberbatch can do any role. From Patrick Melrose to Doctor Strange to a green Grinch. He rocks any character that he embodies.
And making the movie even better: there are plenty of jokes that will entertain adults while sailing well over the heads of most of the young kids in the audience. That’s a nice change of pace, since parents are always forced to buy a ticket to watch usually awful children’s fare. The older I get and the more movies I see, the more appreciation I have for what my parents sat and suffered through. Thanks Mom and Dad!
But.. this movie does have its problems.
Crime & No Punishment
As we mentioned at the start, the Whoville PD is either nonexistent or too busy putting up their holiday decorations. Grinch meticulously plots an epic crime spree, develops amazing gadgets to pull it off, and enlists Max and a plus-sized reindeer named Fred to help pull it off. There are enough felonies here to fuel a full season of Law & Order.
When the Grinch finally realizes he’s stolen stuff but not actually Christmas, he has a change of heart. Putting his grinch tail between his legs he brings back all the decorations to the center of town. The assembled townspeople has the perfect opportunity to become an angry mob and seize the Grinch!
Later at his lair, the doorbell rings. You hope it’s a Constable coming to take him into custody. Given his confession and being caught in possession of the stolen goods, it would be an open and shut case. Max and Fred could be indicted for conspiracy or forced to turn state’s evidence. But, no, it’s Cindy-Lou inviting Grinch to his first Christmas dinner. Another opportunity missed.
Grinch decides to go to dinner with Max. If you’re like me, you’re hoping it’s an ambush. Maybe laxatives in his eggnog. Poison in his pie. Or finally the mob violence the directors passed on earlier.
But no, it’s yet another opportunity missed.
There are also issues with the light tone the movie takes towards heart health. It seems the Grinch was living his life with an undersized heart. Apparently he was able to live with it and not suffer any subsequent health issues.
But then on Christmas, it suddenly grows three sizes in one day. That’s insane. We consulted a physician, and for the cost of a cocktail, she gave us her qualified medical opinion. A heart growing that much that quickly is a medical near-impossibiiltiy. But if it were to happen, it would send the patient’s body into shock.
But does the Grinch’s heart explode? No! Like his crime, this medically questionable claim has none of the real world consequences you would expect.
We really hope then next iteration of The Grinch is directed by Quentin Tarantino!
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Midori Sour. It’s green. It’s sour. It’s the perfect Grinch cocktail.
Cheers & Happy Holidays!