Cum­ber­batch steps into the shoes of the mean one

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - Showtime - Palm Beach - - FRONT PAGE - By Katie Walsh Tri­bune News Ser­vice

We all feel a lit­tle grinchy some­times. When hol­i­day cheer be­comes par­tic­u­larly op­pres­sive, when we feel lonely in a crowd, when we would rather rain on some­one’s pa­rade than ad­mit de­feat, Dr. Seuss gave us a way to de­scribe that feel­ing with his clas­sic hol­i­day chil­dren’s book “How the Grinch Stole Christ­mas.” The uni­ver­sal­ity of the emo­tion is why the tale en­dures, and why we’re now on our third film adap­ta­tion of the story. Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch steps into the role as the Grinch in “The Grinch,” but for­tu­nately for him, there’s no pros­thetic makeup in­volved — this is all com­puter an­i­ma­tion.

The new an­i­mated ver­sion brings us closer to the 1966 TV movie star­ring Boris Karloff. The film, writ­ten by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Sw­erd­low, di­rected by Yar­row Cheney and Scott Mosier, is faith­ful to the book, par­tic­u­larly in the vis­ual style. The an­i­ma­tion, by Il­lu­mi­na­tion En­ter­tain­ment, is stun­ning, de­tailed down to the fleece on a jacket, the fur on the Grinch and the snow in the vil­lage of Whoville.

The story about the Grinch steal­ing Christ­mas and his heart grow­ing three MPAA rat­ing: PG (for brief rude hu­mor) Run­ning time: 1:30 sizes is padded out with a bit more back story for Miss Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely). Cindy Lou has a Christ­mas wish she badly needs to speak about with Santa. She’s hop­ing her fraz­zled sin­gle mom, Donna (Rashida Jones), catches a break, as she works all night as a nurse and spends all day tak­ing care of Cindy and her twin baby broth­ers. Here’s a tip, Cindy: The real S-word that could solve these prob­lems isn’t Santa, it’s so­cial­ism.

So while “The Grinch” brushes up against the crush­ing hor­rors of late cap­i­tal­ism in terms both the con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion of Christ­mas gift­ing and the re­al­ity that is pro­vid­ing for a fam­ily and se­cur­ing child care, the film doesn’t get too deep. Who would ex­pect it to? This is an adap­ta­tion of a chil­dren’s book that’s about find­ing the true spirit of Christ­mas in com­mu­nity and con­nec­tion, about learn­ing to let go of old hurts and old ways and reach­ing out to neigh­bors. It’s about love and kind­ness pre­vail­ing over ev­ery­thing else. It’s just odd this would be the back story the writ­ers chose for Cindy Lou’s mother. How­ever, it is re­lat­able for Amer­i­can au­di­ences.

The Grinch’s is­sue is he’s felt re­jected by the Whos since he was an or­phan, and Christ­mas is his trig­ger. You know the old tale — he en­lists his loyal dog, Max, to steal all the Christ­mas gifts, and the film gets into the lo­gis­tics. There are nec­es­sary ad­di­tions to the story to be made, but any­thing that isn’t di­rectly from Seuss’ book sim­ply feels like un­der­writ­ten fluff. Cum­ber­batch does el­e­vate the ma­te­rial, but don’t ex­pect to hear any of his dul­cet English tones. He goes for a higher, more nasally Amer­i­can ac­cent, but it’s a won­der­ful voice per­for­mance. Ke­nan Thomp­son is also a stand­out as Christ­mas-ob­sessed Brick­le­baum.

“The Grinch” is beau­ti­ful to look at, and di­vert­ing enough. The ma­te­rial writ­ten to fill out the story is en­ter­tain­ing, but it doesn’t res­onate. You can’t top what Seuss wrote, es­pe­cially the poignancy of the Grinch re­al­iz­ing Christ­mas can’t be stolen, be­cause it isn’t a thing. It’s an idea, a spirit, a song. That’s al­ways go­ing to be a good re­minder for us ev­ery hol­i­day sea­son.

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