Is reinvention really a necessity?
With Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch now available via digital, DVD, Blu-Ray and 4K we can see that this reinvention of a modern classic while not exactly necessary is still a light and delightful take on Seuss’s classic tale.
The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company. With a cave rigged with inventions and contraptions for his day-to-day needs, the Grinch only sees his neighbors in Who-ville when he runs out of food. Each year at Christmas they disrupt his tranquil solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. When the Whos declare they are going to make Christmas three times bigger this year, the Grinch realizes there is only one way for him to gain some peace and quiet: he must steal Christmas. To do so, he decides he will pose as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, even going so far as to trap a lackadaisical misfit reindeer to pull his sleigh.
Meanwhile, down in Who-ville, Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) is a young girl overflowing with holiday cheer plots with her gang of friends to trap Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve rounds so that she can thank him for help for her overworked single mother (Rashida Jones). As Christmas approaches, however, her good-natured scheme threatens to collide with the Grinch’s more nefarious one. Will Cindy-Lou achieve her goal of finally meeting Santa Claus? Will the Grinch succeed in silencing the Whos’ holiday cheer once and for all?
It’s not an easy thing to tackle on all ready established and beloved property but Illumination studios pretty much shows that they are up to the challenge here on Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch as it maintains the spirit of the beloved originals (and even Jim Carrey’s version) while at least somewhat successfully updating this age old tale for the 21st century.
Of course the film looks like a million bucks and sets us up in a wonderfully magical world that we can very easily get lost in. The directorial team of Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney tell it all in a solid fashion and while the eye popping dimensional work in the animation does shift away from the original drawings a little bit, but to their credit everyone involved really takes very special care in making it all feel as true to the original material as possible.
Yeah kids could easily sit down in front of the original and still love it, but this plays so well not only in High Definition but actually gives the material a real cinematic feel more so then we could have ever absorbed from the original. While the padding of it all allows for moments to feel a little slight at times, it’s all so sugary and adorable that you really won’t care as you slide into a diabetic coma caused by pure cuteness and it’s easily the best composed effort in the Illumination studios canon. This is next level whimsy that is just very hard to resist.
Benedict Cumberbatch was a very solid choice to voice our protagonist as he balances a little bit of sinister with a little bit of sweet along with a sharp comedic edge and it comes out not only in his vocal performance but in the surprisingly emotive face of the Grinch himself. He actually feels a little relatable as an adult because we get to see the trigger of what made The Grinch so sour in his past and as he interacts with Who-Ville; who are borderline annoying at times with their glee towards Christmas it allows us to have that moment where we appreciate Christmas, but also kind of want it to go away at the same time.
The narrative has such an important arc to it and Cumberbatch as The Grinch allows us to see the dissipation of someone’s suffering and misery and being able to lift ever one up and the pure importance of opening yourself up to love. For the first time in this story’s telling, The Grinch isn’t just some ogre who becomes nice, he’s a damaged member of a community who finally finds his way back into being a part of something.
The picture and the sound on the 4K Blu-Ray are obviously first rate and the special features include some behind the scenes featurettes about the making of the film, an instructional video on how to draw your favourite characters. There’s also music videos and three Illumination Mini-Movies featuring not only the Grinch but our favourites; the Minions.
Ultimately, it’s not hard to see the resistance towards accepting something like Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch when the original TV version from 53 years ago holds such a special place in our hearts but for kids and adults alike, this version gets enough right to make for a pleasant evening in Who-Ville even all these years later.