In 1966 Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) voiced a character known as the Grinch who was known for hating Christmas. Based on the Dr. Seuss children’s book How The Grinch Stole Christmas, watching the 26-minute short animated movie became a time-honored tradition for children across the country.
In 2000 Ron Howard directed How The Grinch Stole Christmas, an expanded version of the original cartoon with Jim Carrey stepping into the role previously filled by Boris Karloff. The movie was certainly fun to look at and has become something of a staple of Christmas viewing for children coming of age around the film’s time of release, but all-in-all, it felt like an unnecessary update. It was a commercial success but not well received by critics.
Now in 2018 Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney teamed up to direct yet another update of the classic story, this time simply titled The Grinch. Between the 2000 and 2018 versions, the 2018 version is easily the better movie.
First and foremost, Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic in his voice-acting for the 3D animated feature. Anyone who has heard Cumberbatch speak knows his voice in The Grinch is nearly unrecognizable.
Secondly, and perhaps most important, the character of the Grinch has finally been made relatable. I can’t speak for everyone, but any person—if the Grinch can be considered technically a person—who willfully mistreats their dog is someone I just can’t empathize with. I suspect most dog-lovers agree. After all, there’s a movie called John Wick about a man taking out vengeance on the people who killed his dog, in which his body count is probably measured in the hundreds, and audiences cheered him on.
No one likes an animal abuser.
The Grinch in the 2018 adaptation of this story doesn’t come off as a narcissistic anger-junkie as he did in Ron Howard’s 2000 version, he comes off as lonely and depressed. Bitter, sure, but he’s genuinely just looking for companionship. The Grinch and Max are dear friends, and while Max picks up a lot of the Grinch’s slack, there’s a level of gratitude and love present between the two that make this film a more heartwarming tale than its 2000 predecessor.
Third, The Grinch is a visual spectacle. During the scene where our anti-hero ultimately sets out to steal Christmas from the citizens of Whoville, we’re treated to some aesthetically stunning moments, particularly when The Grinch is using extendable stilt-like legs to walk from rooftop to rooftop.
While The Grinch isn’t a perfect film, it’s certainly an improvement over Ron Howard’s 2000 version, and brings us a relatable protagonist worthy of redemption, as opposed to prior iterations of the character.