The Grinch review: Delightful in parts, and voiced with tremendous vim by Benedict Cumberbatch

Curmudgeonly viewers may feel as negatively about its unbridled sentimentality as its own main character does about Yuletide celebrations

Geoffrey Macnab@TheIndyFilm
Wednesday 07 November 2018 18:06
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The Grinch - Official Trailer

Dir: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier; Voiced by: Benedict Cumberbatch, Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson. Cert U, 90 mins

New animated feature The Grinch is a perfect Christmas movie – so why it is being released in early November is a mystery. “It is never too early to be annoyed by Christmas,” is how the slogan on the poster justifies its early arrival. This is a faithful adaptation of the Dr Seuss story, but pepped up with much of the zaniness you’d expect from Illumination Entertainment, the team behind The Minions, The Secret Life Of Pets, Sing et al.

The new film is delightful in parts, although curmudgeonly viewers may feel as negatively about its unbridled sentimentality as its main character does about Yuletide celebrations in general.

The Grinch, voiced with tremendous vim by Benedict Cumberbatch, simply can’t stand Christmas. He’s a furry green gargoyle-like creature who sprays “Mold Spice” under his arms and eats far too much junk food. He lives high up a mountain with faithful dog Max as companion, and looks down at the Christmas festivities in Whoville with loathing. His heart is “two sizes too small” for him to be able to take any pleasure in seasonal celebrations.

Having binged on all his spare food, the Grinch is forced to head down the slopes to stock up on provisions. His trip is one of the comic highlights of the film. He and Max go to extreme lengths to avoid townsfolk who are busy putting up decorations. His most bilious ire is reserved for Bricklebaum (voiced by Kenan Thompson), a relentlessly cheerful figure who tries to hug everybody and is taking very seriously the mayor’s edict Christmas should be “three times as big”.

On his trip to town, the Grinch spreads misery wherever he can and takes a malicious pleasure in sabotaging shoppers’ attempts to buy Christmas food. Cumberbatch plays him with a whining American drawl. He is the Scrooge of the story. Pitted against him, and a wonderful comic creation in her own right, is Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), a chubby cheeked, angelic little girl devoted to her overworked mum, Donna Lou (Rashida Jones). Cindy Lou is desperate to track down Santa to ask him to help her mother.

Benedict Cumberbatch voices The Grinch with tremendous vim

Although we see the Grinch banging away at the keyboard of an organ with huge, jagged pipes, Phantom of the Opera-style, and scowling maliciously from his perch high up on the mountain, he never seems as odious as all that. Max and slobbering reindeer Fred wouldn’t stick around if he was the fount of all evil. He is more Victor Meldrew grumbler than Satanic bully. When he decides to “steal Christmas”, he inadvertently reminds the townsfolk there is more to the festivities than getting presents.

The Grinch is narrated by the ever cheery Pharrell Williams – behind the Oscar-nominated “Happy” song from Despicable Me 2. It has the venerable Angela Lansbury doing voice work for the Mayor of Whoville and an added treat is that the film comes with a new Minions short, in which two of the rubbery, gurgling yellow creatures serve time on a chain gang. There is nothing here not to like – apart from the fact the film has arrived in cinemas at least a month too soon.

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