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Movie Review: Illumination Entertainment Brings ‘The Grinch’ Into a Post-‘Despicable Me’ World

CREDIT: Illumination and Universal

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury, Pharrell Williams

Directors: Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Rating: PG for The Cartoonish Dangers of Snowy Cliffs

Release Date: November 9, 2018

Illumination Entertainment’s first and by far most influential release is Despicable Me. It may be the Minions who are inescapable in certain segments of our culture, but it is really the story of Gru and his girls that has provided Illumination with its template for success. That formula is now being applied to an even more established classic, as Dr. Seuss’ Christmas thief makes his CG animated big-screen debut. As voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, this Grinch still follows the arc of grumbling about the holiday, stealing presents, and then finally seeing the light. But he is very much in the mold of Gru insofar as he makes himself out to be a big villian but it is clear that he is actually a big softie the whole time. I don’t really buy that his heart grows three sizes, since I believe that it was actually always that big. Despicable Me works because of the tension of Gru hiding a fundamental side of himself, whereas previous versions of The Grinch have succeeded because the green fellow has been a genuine cold-hearted villain. But this time, there is no dramatically satisfying transformation.

Luckily, there are some details here and there that make for some cheery viewing pleasures. This version of Cindy Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely) is a formidable, strong-willed one. Honestly, I would happily watch a movie that is just about her trying to contact Santa or even one that is just about her preparing Christmas festivities. The animals are also satisfactory, with the Grinch’s canine companion Max serving as the long-suffering partner and a loyal reindeer named Fred showing up at just the right times to be the ideal scene-stealer. And then there’s Kenan Thompson as Bricklebaum, the jolliest citizen in Whoville and perhaps the jolliest character in Christmas movie history. And if you can’t accept Thompson as our resident Deliverer of Joy in 2018, well, then, you might be the one whose heart is three sizes too small.

Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch is Recommended If You Like: Despicable Me‘s sweetness, Resourceful young girls, Kenan Thompson at his most buoyant

Grade: 2.75 out of 5 Grinch Orphanages

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