Mr. Movie says lat­est ver­sion of ‘Grinch’ rises to the oc­ca­sion

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY GARY WOLCOTT Mr. Movie

‘THE GRINCH’

“The Grinch” is the fourth ma­jor re­lease of Dr. Seuss’ clas­sic story, “How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas.”

The first — and best — is the

30-minute TV ver­sion from

1966. Re­move the com­mer­cials and whittle it down, and you have about a 20-minute video. Boris Karloff nar­rated, and Warner Brothers car­toon ti­tans Chuck Jones and Ben Washam an­i­mated Theodore Geisel’s story word for word.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, Seuss is Geisel’s mid­dle name. That has ab­so­lutely zero to do with this film, but it is some­thing I didn’t know un­til now.

You all know the story. The Grinch lives in a cave atop Mt. Crum­pet. From there he can look down on the Whos of Whoville. He’s not a big fan of Whos and doesn’t want to have much to do with them. So with the help of his loyal and lov­ing dog, Max, the Grinch steals all the dec­o­ra­tions out­side homes and in­side, all presents and ev­ery­thing about Christ­mas.

Geisel — I sus­pect — loved Christ­mas.

The con­cern of his 1957 book is how we miss the rea­son for the hol­i­day. This — and Charles Dick­ens’ “A Christ­mas Carol” — are not just my two fa­vorite Christ­mas sto­ries, they are my all-time fa­vorite sto­ries.

Both are very deep but with sim­ple philo­soph­i­cal state­ments. And when done cor­rectly, they’re amaz­ing.

When not so well done — like the Jim Car­rey-Ron Howard col­lab­o­ra­tion “How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas” from 2000 — the pro­found mes­sage of the sto­ries gets mud­died. The Car­rey star ve­hi­cle is over­done and aw­ful. It adds a com­plex back­story on how the Grinch be­came the Grinch.

The other is a 1992 half-hour TV spe­cial nar­rated by Wal­ter Matthau. As much as I love the story of the Grinch, I haven’t seen that one.

As for the cur­rent ver­sion of “The Grinch,” some will in­sist this is a “hol­i­day” movie.

It’s not.

“The Grinch” is a Christ­mas movie. There is — in the eyes of some — a dif­fer­ence. In this case, and in the case of the Seuss book, the Grinch doesn’t hate the “hol­i­days,” he hates Christ­mas and ev­ery­thing about it.

An­other piece of ev­i­dence for my Christ­mas claim is the mu­sic the di­rec­tors — Yar­row Cheney and Scott Mosier — pack into the early part of their film. It’s as Christ­massy as Christ­mas gets, and even in­cludes songs about the rea­son for the sea­son.

The hu­mor comes from the Grinch’s im­pos­si­ble-not-to-love Max, an overweight rein­deer, all of the goods and gad­gets in the Grinch’s cave, and from the Grinch him­self.

Is it good?

Well, there are spots in the film that had me laugh­ing out loud. That’s not easy. There are neg­a­tives.

It’s writ­ten by Michael LeSieur (“Keep­ing Up with the Jone­ses”) and Timmy Sw­erd­low (“Snow Dogs”). They also add a back­story for the Grinch’s ha­tred of Christ­mas, and they add to his plan hatch­ing. Their script is a good one, but Yar­row (codi­rec­tor of “The Se­cret Life of Pets”) and pro­ducer-turned­di­rec­tor Mosier (“Clerks,” “Clerks II,” “Dogma”) stretch the story out to give it the length needed to make this a ma­jor motion pic­ture re­lease.

Next is the nar­ra­tion of rap­per Phar­rell Wil­liams. Miss­ing from his de­liv­ery is the much-needed tongue-in-cheek hu­mor of the book, and that Karloff used in the 1966 orig­i­nal. Wil­liams isn’t aw­ful, but his read­ing is a bit flat.

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch (“Dr. Strange”) gives voice to the Grinch. Like Wil­liams, he is com­pe­tent, but his de­liv­ery is also a bit flat. Cum­ber­batch does ben­e­fit, how­ever, from the afore­men­tioned pretty good script. It has some clever mo­ments and — of course — the Grinch’s big heart-grow­ing-two-sizes pay­off.

It’s that pay­off and some de­cent an­i­ma­tion that makes “The Grinch” a per­fect holi — er, I mean — Christ­mas movie.

Rated PG for ma­ture

● themes. It’s play­ing at the Fairchild Cin­e­mas Pasco and Kennewick 12s, the AMC Clas­sic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cin­e­mas.

●Rat­ing: 4 out of 5

Photos by Il­lu­mi­na­tion and Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures AP

“The Grinch” is the fourth ren­di­tion of the fa­mous Dr. Seuss story. The ti­tle char­ac­ter is voiced by Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch.

Cindy-Lou Who, voiced by Cameron Seely, and the Grinch.

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