I Weep For Cinema

The Grinch (2018)

December 1st 2019, my wife Elizabeth and I created a list of Christmas movies, either that one or both of us have never seen and wanted to watch during this December. The first movie we decided on was Illumination’s remake of The Grinch, that came out in 2018. I went in to it, really not knowing anything about this movie.

This is a modern remake/reboot in every sense of the word. Illumination, the company known for their Despicable Me movies, took a classic Christmas short, and tried to make it into a much longer movie. Back 19 years ago, Universal did the same thing with taking the 1966 25 minute short and stretching it out into a live action 144 minute full length movie, with Jim Carrey starring as the titular Grinch.

I remember seeing the Jim Carrey Grinch movie in the theater, and hating most of it. It seemed like it was trying too hard to make something short and stretching it out and providing backstory to characters that didn’t need a backstory. Shoehorning in weird love interests and more adult themes into a very pure classic that somehow tainted the themes of the original in the process. 

It’s been long enough that a new CGI Grinch movie seemed like a safe bet. And picking the new animation studio who knows how to churn out those movies into mass marketing merchandise machines, it looked like it was going to be ok at best, like everything else they produce. What we got was a Grinch movie in name and plot, but with none of the character that makes the classic,… well… a classic. 

The Grinch is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, which was an odd choice to say the least. I would love to know why he was chosen, because without vocal effects, he comes across as a sniveling lanky looser. The way the Grinch is portrayed in this version has changed him from an evil feared miserable wretch, to a slightly lonely lame deadbeat. He isn’t menacing. He isn’t evil or vile. He just seems like he is just annoyed by the whos. He interacts with a few during the movie, and even goes shopping in town. No one recoils in terror. No one vomits uncontrollably at the sight of this deviant… He just goes about his business. He even is “best friends” with a who, who wants nothing more than to be as kind as possible. This is not the Grinch. Period. Nothing about this movie makes sense. There are many scenes that make the Grinch as goofy as you think Jim Carrey would be if he played the role again. He almost looks rotoscoped from old Ace Venture deleted scenes. The Grinch does not move with fanciful grace. He is lumbering and towering and slimy… Again. This is NOT the Grinch.

The Whos all have a weird permanent smirk while they talk, giving them a “cutesy” vibe that at first seems nice, but then comes off as disingenuine as in never fades. Every character seems pretty much one dimensional and nothing more than what they say. The movie put more time into pop-culture references and comedy routines, than it did filling out the characters. There is a weird anachronistic feeling to the music as well. We get the Whos’ Welcome Christmas song, but we also get classic christmas songs sung by people like Bing Crosby in world as well. It feels off and very weird that Cindy Lou’s mom would be playing Brian Setzer’s Run Run Rudolph, or that The Grinch would have his alarm clock ringing out The Jackson 5’s Santa is coming to town…. And don’t even get me started on the few seconds of Mambo No. 5 that plays during Max’s dream sequence.

Tyler, The Creator (Who?) butchers “remixes” the classic “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” into the beginning of the movie, which makes it almost unlistenable. I almost shut it off right then and there. It has to be easily, one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard in my life. And I’m not exaggerating. It is truly awful.

The main travesty of this movie isn’t that it was remade, isn’t that it’s a modern CGI take on the film. It’s that it is exactly what it looks like a candy coated cash grab. It looks nice, but once you actually look at it, it is filled with everything unpleasant about the film industry. Fake one dimensional characters voice by a diversity cast of celebrities that you only associate them with something else, requiring no actual acting. Forced dialog that feels like it was written in a board room. And shoehorned in modern jokes that don’t belong anywhere near a classic. 

People love to make fun of people who get upset at things on the internet. The sad truth is there is a reason, and those people don’t understand the actual reason. This movie does not take away from the original, Yes, the original still exists and is far superior in every single aspect. It’s the fact that it now taints the original, and sullies the good reputation, by having a copycat knock-off that will make more money, be more popular, and be the one that more children associate it with. Illumination is known for shoveling out poorly made movies that have little to no actual depth to the story and this is no exception. The Grinch isn’t mean, or nasty. He’s just kinda a hermit. One who has no motivation for wanting to actually steal Christmas. He just wants to be left alone. When he does interact with everyone, they are nice and he is relatively nice back. This is a poor excuse for a Grinch movie and one that I hope to never ever watch again.