It was 1957 when Dr. Seuss wrote the original version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. We learned about Whoville, Max and, of course, the green grouch who lives up in the mountains overlooking Whoville…the Grinch. Then, in 1966, it was animated by the legendary Chuck Jones and narrated by horror master Boris Karloff. With music by Thurl Ravenscroft, this version is still seen every holiday season and heard on Christmas radio stations non-stop. Unfortunately, Hollywood couldn’t leave well enough alone.
In 2000, Ron Howard and Jim Carrey teamed up for a live-action adaptation, The Grinch. It’s not horrible but Jim Carrey’s manic humor hasn’t aged well. At least we had Anthony Hopkins narrating and a decent soundtrack. Flash forward to 2018 and Hollywood has done it again. Unfortunately, this time they went back to the animators for a contemporary spin on the yuletide classic that nobody was asking for.
The Grinch (2018) is almost equally inspired by the original as well as the 2000 remake. The hustle and bustle of Whoville we witnessed in 2000 is here once again but with less character development. Of course, Cindy Lou Who is more hip and the Grinch is toned down for a more sensitive audience…but why? The best part of the original story was the Scrooge-like redemption the Grinch had at the end of the tale. You aren’t meant to like him at the beginning as he’s the villain of the piece. Thankfully, we didn’t get a replay of the horrendous back story given to the Grinch in 2000 but now we’re given a watered down version. The Grinch is actually nice to Max at the beginning. Yes, he still wants to ruin Christmas but you never get the feeling that’s he’s the villain as the original story presented him as.
The movie also stumbles with Pharrell Williams as the voice of the narrator. He lacks the menace that both Karloff and Hopkins had as his voice is far too meek and mild. The film’s score by Danny Elfman is good and I enjoyed the incorporation of modern Christmas tunes by Run-D.M.C. interspersed with Nat King Cole. However, the new, hip-hop version of the theme song, performed by Tyler, the Creator, is simply horrible. It doesn’t compare with the original in any way, shape or form.
There are several elements of this new version I do like. I love Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch as he harkens back to the original portrayal, thankfully leaving the often irritating zaniness of Jim Carrey behind. Visually, the movie looks stunning, full of Christmas cheer. But at 90 minutes long, there simply isn’t enough story here to prevent the inevitable padding. That may work for Santa Claus this time of year but it never works for films.
The original is in a class all by itself. While this new version is certainly better than the 2000 remake, it’s simply unnecessary. The original is entertaining for children of all ages but this one is really intended for children who might appreciate the new approach. I’ll probably watch it again at some point but it will never replace the original.