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‘The Grinch’ for the modern moment

Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the Grinch as a cute creature (courtesy of Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures).

It has been 18 years since Jim Carrey brought the Grinch to life in one of the most iconic Christmas movies of all time, and now, in 2018, everyone’s favorite green Christmas character is back in action and cuter than ever before. In addition to reminding you that you are old, this year’s Grinch movie is an animated delight.

In line with the times, “The Grinch” depicts a much more modern Who-ville and features an updated narrative with new supporting characters. The Who population is refreshingly diverse, the Mayor of Who-ville is a woman, Cindy-Lou Who is a precocious and independent little girl, and Cindy Lou’s single mother factors in as a key supporting character. Perhaps the most delightful addition to this iteration of Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic, however, is a hippo-shaped reindeer whose physical comedy adds pizzazz to an otherwise bland second act.

This year’s Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, is frankly adorable with his big eyes and rounded belly. I must confess it took me about an hour to finally stop thinking of the little green guy as Benedict Cumberbatch and consider him the Grinch. As much as I love Jim Carrey’s portrayal, this year’s Grinch is more faithful to Dr. Seuss’s original storybook character. He is a clean, relatable, slightly depressed fuzzy green creature who seems to be more sad than cruel. Cumberbatch’s Grinch is self-pitying and well groomed, a jarring departure from Jim Carrey’s self-loathing and monstrously unhygienic Grinch.

Made by the creators of “Despicable Me” and “Sing,” “The Grinch” is a departure from previous incarnations in other ways. For example, the iconic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is now a rap song by Tyler, the Creator. More of an origin story than other renditions, the narrator, voiced by Pharrell Williams, provides a psychological explanation of the Grinch’s childhood trauma surrounding Christmas celebrations. While the Grinch is portrayed as a rather docile cynic, Cindy-Lou Who is a thoughtful yet slightly rebellious little girl. She devises a plan to capture Santa Claus in order to meet him and tell him what she wants for Christmas (and, of course, captures the Grinch instead). The animation is spectacular. Who-ville looks like the make-believe winter wonderland of my dreams — complete with inner-tube runs and the largest Christmas tree you’ve ever seen.

Although the filmmakers take creative liberties with this classic story, Dr. Seuss would have been proud of this year’s Who-ville. A story ultimately about fighting hate with empathy, kindness and community, “The Grinch” is exactly the kind of Christmas movie we need in 2018. It remains true to the spirit of Seuss and the spirit of Christmas. Even though I’ll always love Jim Carrey’s Grinch character, “The Grinch” is a whimsical and uplifting Christmas film sure to warm the hearts of even the most Grinch-y viewer.

 

Contact Hayley Hodson at hhodson ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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