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This Grinch lacks spunk, but at least it’s wholesome and respectable.


The Grinch could use some sugar
The Grinch could use some sugar

Maybe it’s the buildup of expectations. Benedict Cumberbatch — the star of BBC’s awesome Sherlock and Dr. Strange himself — voicing the Grinch? Excellent. The animation house behind the Minions tackling Dr. Seuss and the Grinch? And longtime Minions collaborator Pharell Williams (creator of the Happy ear worm) serving as the narrator? How cool could that be?

Well, the “cool” factor is more like lukewarm. While the Minions offer playful, irreverent fun, this take on the Seuss classic is perhaps a bit too reverent to the source material.

But, perhaps more importantly, screenwriters Michael LeSieur (Keeping Up with the Joneses) and Tommy Swerdlow (Snow Dogs) should’ve brushed up on their Seussical prose — maybe by way of writing sessions with 97-year-old executive producer Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss’ widow. Pharrell Williams’ narration so desperately needed more of the rhythm of Dr. Seuss instead of the standard patter of a disembodied voiceover.

Resist the Cookie

The tale as a whole has survived the transition from Chuck Jones to Ron Howard and now co-directors Yarrow Cheney (The Secret Life of Pets) and Scott Mosier (making his feature (co-)directing debut).

There’s sweet little Cindy Lu on a quest to speak with Santa. She’s got some important business to discuss: Mom is overwhelmed by work and, while being the sole bread winner, also keeping track of the kids. Cindy Lu wants to give her the greatest gift of all: a break.

Counter that with Mr. Crankypants himself, the Grinch. The guy with a heart two sizes too small. Orphaned and with dreary Christmases past haunting his green little mind, the Grinch wants to steal Christmas from Whoville so, basically, everywho can feel his misery.

And so it is fate plays its hand on these Cindy Lue and Grinch, crossing their paths and setting in motion a chain of events that sees the Grinch succeed in his quest to steal every bit of Christmas (at least merchandise) outta Whoville.

But the gifts and decorations are all he got. The Whoville spirit of Christmas remained strong.

Christmas Chutney

And therein is everything The Grinch gets right.

Okay. It lacks snap. It lacks pizzazz. It lacks the wit (and, oh dear) wisdom of the Minions.

But it makes up for that with a surprisingly pure take on Christmas, which includes a rather striking take on the ol’ Christmas carol classic God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The crudest this movie gets is the oddly fart-like sound of a syrup bottle running empty.

As all the Grinch’s mayhem runs its course, the Whovians remain strong and prove to the Grinch Christmas is found in the heart (and — hint, hint — not in the store).

During these chaotic times, it’s a relief, then, to see this movie end with a wish for kindness. It’s the kind of goodwill only a real Grinch would dismiss.