I’ve been hard on Illumination in the past, but for a good reason. Universal’s animation company always seemed to be borrowing from other brands, from copycat plots to specific character designs. This makes the studio’s version of Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch a bit of an anomaly. It’s an existing, well known property that could’ve been another clone but, instead, Illumination has provided a new take on the popular Dr. Seuss curmudgeon, which also includes luscious animation and a cast of unidentifiable voice talents.
The Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) still coops himself up in the mountainous peaks overlooking Whoville, but he longs for acceptance. Unlike previous interpretations, the Grinch involves himself wth the other Whos below, and even socializes with them (most notably with Mr. Bricklebaum voiced by Kenan Thompson). The aggressive Christmas celebrations are what plucks his nerves, but only because his experience with the season reminds him of his sad solitude. An honest, triggered response for an outsider who wants his life to change but, in that case, he might want to consider removing those threatening signs around his lair. Maybe then, the Whos would want to visit.
The Grinch has the traditional Seuss plot to fall back on, which gives directors Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (Kevin Smith’s long-time producer) the confidence to experiment with supporting characters in amusing ways. For instance, instead of making her curious and shy, Cindy-Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely) is now a rambunctious tot with a big imagination; a great trait that comes in handy when she devises a plan with her friends to catch Santa Claus. Even the animal sidekicks, despite their fair share of typical slapstick, have their moments to apply physical humour to new creative heights.
The frequent deviations to the original story may rub some some viewers the wrong way, but these changes give this modern version of the classic tale its own legs to stand on.
The Grinch hits 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD on Tuesday, February 5.
The film is now available on Digital HD.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie