Every rebooted Grinch movie gives it a shot. But this Grinch, from Scott Mosier, just sadly does not. At just 26 minutes, the original scored, but at three times the length, this one left me quite bored. With Karloff, they made almost perfect a choice, but Cumberbatch never can find his own voice. He mimics the Joker or, worse, Mason Verger, his tics and inflections forming a weird villain merger of croaks and shrieks and gasps of delight that add naught to a script neither mirthful or light. His Grinch is a sad sack, and absent for stretches, as we meet all the Whos down in Whoville, those wretches.
Kenan Thompson fares better, his Who a bright spot among countless and nameless more Whos in the lot. But the cast and bombast and the visual splendor will only do harm to us all who remember that once this old tale of the Grinch and his dog was a tiny amusement and not this great slog. The Burton-esque style (he inspired by Seuss) only made me wish Hollywood would call a truce. Do we really need tragic backstories for all of our childhood memories thrown at the wall? Young Grinch was once happy and charming, you see, until one Christmas morning: No presents! No tree! Yes, that’s all it took for his heart to shrink down. It was then that he plotted revenge on the town.
Still, that’s more or less what you already knew, so you might now be asking, so how is that new? (Yes, I rhymed “knew” with “new,” it was one of my fears, but forgive me, this is my first poem in years). Well, for one thing, the animation is superb, all flawless designs, every corner and curb. The glistening snow and the Grinch’s grand sleigh had me sitting up cheering and shouting Who-ray! But, alas, while it’s stunning to look at, it seems that even this meager plot breaks at the seams. The roast beast and Grinch schemes are all present, for sure. It’s just that this movie is all about more. The Whos all have jobs and are stressed and high-strung, and the Grinch, he himself, is a little unsung. The movie forgets what’s it’s really about and instead can’t stop going, “Hey, kids, check this out! Hey, look, it’s the Grinch in his underwear dancing!” It’s enough to make me almost give up freelancing.
There are cynical cash-grabs and then there are hacks who don’t even care if they make money back. It’s all about property, keeping their mitts on this stuff so the other guy can’t make the hits. Just dead-hearted retreads and remakes so doomed that the stink from these features will clear every room. The Grinch learns a lesson like Scrooge did before him: Be caring and giving and stop being grim. But studio bosses aren’t like you and me. They don’t take to heart all the movies they see. They don’t get that endlessly rehashing stories adds nothing. They never recapture those glories. So next time they say, “Hey, it’s new, take a look!” Just skip it. Stay home. Why not just read the book?
Rated PG for brief rude humor. Now playing at AMC River Hills Classic 10, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.