‘The Grinch’ Movie Review: Benedict Cumberbatch Voices the Grumpy Green Creature

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The Grinch Animated Movie

A scene from the 2018 animated movie, ‘The Grinch.’ (Photo Credit: Illumination and Universal Pictures © 2018 Universal Studios)

“Today we will steal Christmas in style,” says the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) to his dog Max as he gets ready to steal all the presents from the Whos down in Who-ville in the 2018 big screen adaptation/extended version of the Dr. Seuss classic holiday tale, The Grinch.

The Grinch hates everything to do with Christmas, and every year the Whos down in Who-ville celebrate it bigger and louder than the year before. When The Grinch finds out the Whos intend to make Christmas three times bigger this year, he decides the only way he will ever have any peace is if he steals Christmas.


The Grinch sets out to rob the Whos of their Christmas by posing as Santa Claus, sneaking into their houses after the real Santa has visited, and stealing all their presents, trees, decorations, holiday food, and anything else Christmasy.

Bigger, louder, and much longer (of course) than the original 1966 animated classic Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas television special, 2018’s The Grinch is nothing more than a big screen, shiny, slapstick, empty extended remake of a perfect holiday classic.

Benedict Cumberbatch does a good job of bringing to life this not necessarily mean but more just misunderstood Grinch who is way too nice right from the start of the PG-rated film. The reason the original story works so well is that the Grinch is mean to everyone, even his loyal dog Max, until the end when he discovers the true spirit of Christmas. Cumberbatch’s performance of the cranky, ill-tempered green creature is just too tolerant of the Whos from the get-go and is a best buddy to Max. This is an awful, and seemingly unnecessary, change that weakens the moral of the story.

The storyteller this time out is Pharrell Williams who pales in comparison to the wonderful delivery and performance by the legendary Boris Karloff in the original television special. Karloff brought to life Dr. Seuss’ words and gave the Grinch his Grinchyness. (Granted, there aren’t many people who wouldn’t suffer in comparison to Karloff.) Williams’ style along with his hip-hop redoing of the original songs feels out of place and sounds as though they belong in a different film altogether.

The subplot of little Cindy Lou Who also feels like an unnecessary alteration.
In the 2018 version of Dr. Seuss’ beloved tale, Cindy Lou Who is no longer two but closer to 10. The film also trades out the character’s adorableness and innocence by turning her into a high-energy, overactive child who just wants to make her mom happy for Christmas. This change obliterates a very important element of the story.

This new remake of the television special lacks the heart, humor, magic, and Christmas spirit that makes the Chuck Jones animated TV show a holiday Christmas classic.

GRADE: C

Directed By: Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney

MPAA Rating: PG for brief rude humor

Running Time: 90 minutes

Release Date: November 9, 2018




Kevin Finnerty

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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