What’s up with The Grinch?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE -

In my house we had one firm rule – the DVD of Jim Car­rey’s How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas, a film made all the way back in 2000, could not be played be­fore De­cem­ber 1… ever. It was a rule I at­tempted to en­force with vig­or­ous parental author­ity but con­spic­u­ously failed on most week­ends from Hal­loween on­wards. It duly be­came a muchloved part of the fab­ric of our fam­ily, de­spite the dis­tinctly so-so re­views that greeted its re­lease.

And maybe, in turn, the new an­i­mated ver­sion of the story will duly be­come part of the fab­ric of a new gen­er­a­tion of fam­i­lies, de­spite this dis­tinctly so-so re­view. Yes, the an­i­ma­tion is a shiny, pixel-bright de­light, and it’s in­ter­est­ing to hear Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch do­ing his Amer­i­can-ac­cented best to lend fresh voice to the green, furry, Christ­mas-hat­ing cur­mud­geon that is the ti­tle char­ac­ter. But the whole thing just seems lack­ing in that Yule­tide es­sen­tial: magic.

Purists may say that, bar­ring the in­ter­po­la­tion of an over-sized rein­deer, the new ver­sion is more faith­ful to Dr Seuss’s orig­i­nal story than Car­rey’s ever was. Prag­ma­tists will say that for a fea­ture-length film, Seuss’s 1957 pic­ture book in­evitably needs to be ‘padded out’ and that Car­rey’s ver­sion did a bet­ter job of that than the new film. It’s only 90 min­utes long but at times it def­i­nitely drags, par­tic­u­larly for any­one fa­mil­iar with the ba­sic story.

For any­one who is not… the Grinch lives in gloomy ex­ile in a cave on tow­er­ing Mount Crumpit, over­look­ing the colour­ful, cheer­ful, Christ­mas-lov­ing town of Whoville, the in­hab­i­tants of which – the Whos – go into fes­tive over­drive ev­ery De­cem­ber. Much to the an­noy­ance of the Grinch, who hates Christ­mas, partly be­cause his heart is fa­mously ‘two sizes too small’ and partly for rea­sons that be­come clear about halfway through. But ei­ther way, to cut a short story even shorter, he re­solves to steal Whoville’s Christ­mas al­to­gether – ev­ery last bauble, tree and, of course, present. ‘In­stead of bring­ing all the joy and hap­pi­ness,’ he gloats, ‘I’m go­ing to take it away!’ There’s no doubt the new film makes the Grinch splen­didly un­pleas­ant – this is the sort of bah-hum­bug crea­ture who knocks down chil­dren’s snow­men, kicks away walk­ing sticks and de­lib­er­ately places vi­tal in­gre­di­ent jars out of reach of short Christ­mas shop­pers. He even nearly gives away the big­gest Christ­mas se­cret of all when kind­hearted Cindy Lou an­nounces her plan to stay up and wait for Santa to ask him some­thing spe­cial.

The an­i­ma­tion – from the com­pany that makes the Min­ion films – is good too, not just with a swoop­ing vir­tual cam­era that makes the gid­dy­mak­ing best of the snowy, slip­pery set­ting (Whoville is a place where res­i­dents ride bob-sleighs to work, Cindy Lou slides down moun­tains on a rub­ber ring, and the Grinch’s get­away ve­hi­cle is an over­laden sleigh pulled by his dog, Max), but for Christ­mas lights that you can see com­ing on one by one. Nev­er­the­less, this is a film that stub­bornly re­fuses to come to real life, with Cindy Lou round­ing up her gang in a way that never re­ally grips or en­ter­tains and smacks too much of Char­lie Brown. Phar­rell Wil­liams nar­rates a pro­duc­tion that has clearly made the de­ci­sion to make it­self more eth­ni­cally di­verse, but it doesn’t help it­self with the turgid hip-hop-ifi­ca­tion of songs such as You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch. So, in 18 years’ time, will a gen­er­a­tion be look­ing back as fondly at this ver­sion of The Grinch as my fam­ily do at Jim Car­rey’s? It’s pos­si­ble – but I doubt it.

‘The an­i­ma­tion is a de­light… but this is a film that stub­bornly re­fuses to come to real life’ DON’T MISS OUR BRIL­LIANT IT’S FRI­DAY SUP­PLE­MENT ONLY IN THE

FRESH VOICE: The Grinch is voiced by Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch

MATTHEW BOND

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