The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his loyal dog, Max, live a lonely life atop the snowy crest of Mount Crumpet. Ostracizing himself from the Whos down in Whoville (the tall and the small), his main source of frustration comes during Christmastime when his neighbors celebrate the holidays with a bang. When the Whos decide to make Christmas bigger and brighter this year than ever before, the Grinch hatches a scheme to steal Christmas and end the Whos’ jovial celebration once and for all.
Produced by Chris Meledandri (Despicable Me), the greatest challenge facing Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch seemed to be whether or not The House That Minions Built could tell a story that lived up the legacy of the iconic original. Thankfully, the latest incarnation of Dr. Seuss’ classic tale is an engaging romp that treads enough new ground to feel fresh and—dare I say it?—even necessary. (Incidentally, what impressed me most about the film is that, despite coming from Illumination, the humor is mostly spared from going full ‘Minions’ with bathroom humor, allowing it to feel somewhat timeless and charming.) Star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the titular villain with snarling glee as he plots against the seemingly naïve Who’s (even if he isn’t quite as much of a ‘mean one’ as previous incarnations). What’s more, this film seems to have a lighter bounce and sense of play than in the past, making it more accessible to even younger viewers.
Still, The Grinch sets itself apart from previous versions through its sense of grace and support towards others. While we’ve seen the Grinch as either traumatized by lost love (live-action) or simply… well… mean (animated), this vision shows him as a lonely curmudgeon. Alone in the orphanage as a child, Cumberbatch’s Grinch has deliberately tried to pull himself away from others, not out of hatred but out of jealousy. Having never been invited to be a part of any sort of community, the Grinch simply doesn’t understand the blessing of being surrounded by people that care about you. (Or, he’s at least oblivious to it, as his friendship with Max and Fred would indicate.)
Conversely, however, the Grinch’s isolation is held in contrast to the Who’s desire to come together and, more specifically, Cindy Lou Who’s quest to help her mother. Out of love and respect for what she sees her mom sacrifice for their family, Cindy Lou sets out on a quest to [literally] wrestle Santa to the ground in order to ensure that her request gets through to the North Pole. Rather than give Santa a list of gifts, all she cares about is seeing her mother get the help she needs. Like Cindy Lou, this film has a much firmer grasp on the meaning of the holidays and, as a result, the film’s climactic reunion with the Grinch seems far more significant. This vision of The Grinch understands what it means for a community to lovingly support those in need—and the importance of grace that breaks through in its midst.
On video, the film transfers beautifully (especially in 4K which really allows the color to pop onscreen). Special features include 3 mini-movies (yes, two of them feature the Minions), Cindy Lou’s Yule Log and a sing-a-long version of “You’re a Mean One (Mr. Grinch)”. However, one of the most interesting pieces is also the most simple. A short video entitled “Any Who Can Draw” allows viewers to put their artistic skills to work to draw characters from the film, an activity that my whole family enjoyed.
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is available on 4K, BluRay, DVD or Digital Download.
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