tek's rating:

The Grinch (PG)
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Caution: nearly total spoilers.

This is a 2018 CGI adaptation of the 1957 book "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!", which of course was previously adapted into an animated 1966 TV special and a live-action 2000 feature film. What can I say about this movie? I liked the animation and the voice acting. I liked all the gadgets. I liked the expanded role of Cindy-Lou Who, who I thought was a pretty cool kid. In general I liked the expanded story, though I felt like the Grinch's backstory was weak compared to the 2000 film. In this movie's brief backstory, we learn that the Grinch was an orphan who was always alone during the holidays, which is why he hates Christmas: it exacerbates the loneliness he feels all the time. But I feel like that motivation is a bit weak when you consider that as an adult, he chooses to be alone, despite having at least one person who actively tries to be his friend, and all the other Whos who would surely be friendly towards him if given any reason to be. But instead the Grinch is just mean to everyone. Except his dog, Max. One thing I liked about this film is that, aside from treating Max like a sort of butler, the Grinch is nicer to Max than he has been in previous versions of the story.

Anyway, the movie is narrated in verse by Pharrell Williams. We learn how excited all the Whos in Whoville are about Christmas, and how the Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) hates Christmas. Unfortunately, a few days before the holiday he runs out of food and has to go down from his mountain into Whoville to buy more. (This made me wonder how much time he normally spends in Whoville and how he makes his money.) Meanwhile, a young Who girl named Cindy Lou heads to the post office to mail a letter to Santa Claus, and on her way she literally runs into the Grinch. He tries to upset her by saying if her letter is so important, she should talk to Santa in person, but of course nobody's ever met him. (This is possibly implying that he doesn't exist.) But Cindy Lou doesn't seem to take it that way. Instead, she becomes determined to actually meet Santa. She's desperate to ask him to help her mother, Donna Who (Rashida Jones), who spends her nights working and her days taking care of Cindy Lou and her baby twin sons. (There's no indication of why Donna is single. Is she divorced? Widowed? Is her baby daddy just a deadbeat who isn't around? We don't know!) But anyway, it's unclear what Cindy Lou expects Santa to do about her mother being so overworked, and spoiler alert, that issue is never resolved, which is something that bothers me about the movie.

On his way home with his groceries, the Grinch runs into a Who named Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), who considers the Grinch a friend, though the Grinch doesn't like him. From Bricklebaum, he learns that the Mayor (Angela Lansbury) wants Christmas to be "three times bigger" this year. At first the Grinch thinks this is a joke, but he later finds out it's true, and becomes determined to stop Christmas from happening in Whoville this year. Meanwhile, Cindy Lou talks to her best friend, Groopert, about wanting to meet Santa, and they brainstorm some ways that might happen. Eventually Cindy Lou comes up with the idea of trapping Santa when he comes to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. She enlists the help of Groopert and a few other friends to set a trap, though honestly I felt like the other friends were superfluous to the plan, and even Groopert wasn't strictly necessary. I feel like Cindy Lou could have done everything herself. But it is cool to see how these two plot threads, that of the Grinch's plans and Cindy Lou's plans, will eventually converge.

The Grinch steals Bricklebaum's decorative sleigh, and goes out looking for reindeer to pull it. He finds one whom he calls Fred, and I think it's nice that for a change, his first instinct wasn't to just dress Max as a reindeer and have him pull the sleigh. Though for a reason I won't spoil, that's what ends up happening, anyway. But I think Fred was a decent addition to the story. Um... it seems like there are a lot of houses in Whoville, making it seem like an impossible task for the Grinch to rob all of them in one night, but the gadgets he creates help considerably. It's also kind of a major coincidence that the very last house he visits just happens to be Cindy Lou's. Of course she catches him in her trap and then lets him go, telling him that the reason she wanted to talk to him was to help her mother. This plants a seed of doubt in the Grinch's mind that he was right to be stealing Christmas, but he continues with his plan, anyway. The next morning, as in the original story, his heart and mind finally change when he hears the Whos singing despite having all their presents and decorations stolen. So of course he returns everything and apologizes, then goes home. Later, Cindy Lou shows up at his door to invite him and Max to Christmas dinner, and he's nervous about accepting the invitation, but he ends up going. I still feel like it's a bit weird that all the Whos forgave him so easily, but I guess they're just generous people. And it was a touching end to the story. And possibly more believable than previous incarnations.

Well, I also want to say there are some good songs in the movie, which would have felt out of place in previous versions, but I thought they worked well here. There's also a good score by Danny Elfman. And... I guess that's all I can think to say about the movie itself. The DVD has some good bonus features, including three short films, two of which are about Minions ("Yellow is the New Black" and "Santa's Little Helpers", the former of which was released theatrically with this movie), and another one that is about Max. In "The Dog Days of Winter", the Grinch is sick, and runs out of tea, so Max goes to Whoville to obtain some more, but the shopkeeper doesn't allow dogs in his store. So Max has to get a bit devious. It was a decent short, but not something I'm likely to find very memorable.

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