Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
REVIEWS of “Christmas” movies
Benedict Cumberbatch … Grinch (voice)
Rashida Jones … Donna Lou Who (voice)
Angela Lansbury … The Mayor of Whoville (voice)
Scarlett Estevez … Izzy
Cameron Seely … Cindy Lou Who (voice)
Kenan Thompson … Bricklebaum (voice)
Pharrell Williams … Narrator (voice)
Ramone Hamilton … Axl
Tristan O'Hare … Groopert
Perfect World Pictures (Beijing) [China]
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Community expression of Christmas joy, blessing of family and friends, kindness and love
The Grinch—he hates Christmas. He hates it a lot. He hates the decorations, the songs, the presents and especially those dreaded Christmas cookies! The whole holiday season just brings back bad childhood memories for him. And, even it if weren’t the Christmas season, he truly believes that, other than for his buddy Max and a local Who that he knows, he is better off alone.
But this year, Christmas is different in Whoville. It’s bigger and better. In fact, the mayor wants it 3x bigger than last year! “3 times bigger!” the Grinch thinks, “Why, oh why!” So he comes up with, a mean, old dastardly Grinch of a plan: stop Christmas from coming. But how, you might ask? He’s going to steal Christmas from the Whos—the decorations, the presents, the lights, all of it. Will he be able to pull it off?
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” is a tale that many of us could tell over and over again. Whether you are a fan of the original book or the Jim Carrey version (which I am a fan of, though perhaps I’m in the minority amongst critics), or this current re-telling, its classic tale of acceptance amongst difference, love triumphing against hate, and how even the most the unlikely person can have a change of heart when given the circumstances. All of these tellings relate values that “Dr. Seuss” (Theodor Seuss Geisel) wanted to ensure children continued to receive, regardless of who told the story (yes, you can even find some of that in the somewhat, more questionable Jim Carrey version).
I say this because when I walked into the theater this afternoon, I had low expectations for this film. Not because it was a children’s movie, but because it’s a story by Dr. Seuss, one of his most memorable, and one that, since it has been told before, needs to reach children in a new way, a way that will inspire a new generation to reach toward kindness and compassion toward others (especially in a time where hate and evil seem to be more and more prevalent in television and media), which is what The Grinch story is supposed to teach children in the first place.
To that end, I must say I was pleasantly surprised with this film. It definitely had more heart than I was expecting and far less questionable content that Illumniation’s other films (such as the “Despicable Me” franchise). When I say heart, I truly mean HEART, as I felt more for The Grinch in this story, as did many children I heard in the theater reacting to the scenes. The Grinch has a backstory that is relatable and understandable (though not justifiable) in his actions toward others. Additionally, throughout the film, we see true redemption in characters. It’s not shallow or forced upon the audience, and even made this reviewer, deep down, shed a tear.
However, what is truly uplifting in this film is that messages and Christian themes are presented and promoted in a positive manner. For example, there is one scene in the film, as The Grinch is trying to steal a sleigh for his heist, where he peaks into a window of Whos gathered together, smiling, and singing “Silent Night,” reverently and respectfully, which effects The Grinch, as well, before he continues. Additionally, in other parts of the films, we see other Whos happily singing Christ-based Christmas carols to one another (“O Holy Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”). Again, this is done in a playful, but also respectful manner. This is encouraging, since these Christian themes do not appear in many secular children’s films these days.
Of course, none of this would matter, in my opinion, if the other cinematic aspects were strong, which they are. The performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and the rest of the crew is relatively strong, and the animation, as always, is simply beautiful. The pacing of the story is also relatively smooth, with an appropriate run time of 90 minutes.
Violence: Mild. The Grinch, in all his grinch-iness, pulls a few mean tricks on people throughout the film. For example, he catapults a Who by pulling on some Garland. He also destroys the head of a Who’s snowman. We witness The Grinch being knocked out by an Inflatable Santa. The Grinch also gets hit by a tree trunk at one point. There is also a very brief moment of peril.
Language: Mild—includes “heck,” “geez,” “Holy moly,” “Oh sugar plum,” and an obesity joke about a reindeer
Sexuality/Nudity: A couple Whos share a kiss (they are married though). The Grinch wakes up in his underwear. A Who loses his clothes during an activity (we see him holding a cookie to cover up something).
Other: In a grocery store, The Grinch purposely knocks off a canned item someone is trying to reach of the shelf, and it shatters. In the same store, he eats a pickle, spits it out, puts it in another jar and places that jar in another cart.
As I said, one of the central themes of all The Grinch tales is the theme of being alone. The Grinch has spent his entire time being alone up on Mount Krumpit, ever since he was a child. As he states to Max, “It’s just better this way.”
Sometimes, I know there are moments where I, myself, feel like I’m alone in my struggles and troubles and that perhaps God could really care less. But I know this is a lie! This is the Father of Lies feeding me this! I’m never alone. The Lord promises us in the Scriptures:
And this is the Scripture that reminds us of God’s strength in our life, lest we forget how powerful an ally we have:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” —1 Corinthians 10:13
“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” is a story that, sure, has been told before. In a time where there is so much hate and despair though, our children, and even adults, may NEED this story. All I can say to Illumination is, “Well done.” This telling of The Grinch is strong in many respects (apart from some minor objectionable content) and provides firm morals grounded in love, acceptance and in never being alone. I can highly recommend this film for family viewing, as there is very little to be cautious about.
What is Christian LOVE? Answer
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.