• changsmith2

THE GRINCH: Tweaking Seuss … with solid results

When you combine the genius of Dr. Seuss and animator Chuck Jones with vocalists Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravenscroft, you get 1966’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” -- a classic that has stood the test of time as well as any other Christmas staple you can name. So … did the world really needed another Grinch?

Probably not -- but I don’t think you’ll hear many folks complaining.

Helping erase the memory of Ron Howard’s lackluster 2000 version, the new computer-animated update has its heart squarely in the right place. The music and the candy-dandy visuals are modern; but the storyline is downright old-fashioned. Eschewing the slapstick, chaos and bathroom humor of other modern animated fare, “The Grinch” hones in on seasonal sentiment and selflessness; at times it pulls more firmly on one’s heartstrings than the original.

Benedict Cumberbatch does a wonderful job voicing the titular Christmas-crab, with strong help from Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams and Kenan Thompson; yet the best thing about this new version is the way it tweaks Seuss’ storyline. That sounds like blasphemy, even from a purist like me -- but it works.

There’s effective humor with a friendly but overweight reindeer for the Grinch’s sleigh (don’t worry; Max still gets to wear his goofy horn and sink into the snow). And there are substantial hints that the Grinch is not quite as grinchy as he seems -- paving the way for his sudden transformation on Mt. Crumpet. You’ll also note a number of tributes to the Seuss canon -- including visual cues from the 1966 cartoon.

More significantly, Little Cindy Lou Who -- now a bit more than two -- plays a much bigger role; together with poignant glimpses of the Grinch’s backstory, she provides a strong thematic and emotional backbone. All this makes “The Grinch” feel fresh -- yet also faithful to Seuss’ vision of familial love and community kindness.

The only major drawback is that the writers jettison most of Seuss’ beautiful poetry, substituting a lot of new material. Now this is risky, since Seuss’ peerless rhyme and rhythm put him in a class with other masters like Poe and Tennyson -- I’m not kidding.

Sadly, writers Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow don’t have a good ear for meter -- or for words that work together. When the film’s first rhyme paired “me” with “dream,” I knew we were in trouble. Worse yet, the rhyme eventually drops out completely -- which is quite distracting.

Fortunately, Williams does a manful job handling the narration, and the theater full of kids and parents really seemed to enjoy themselves. At the same time, they got a fine seasonal message about how much we need one another, and how Christmas -- perhaps -- doesn’t come from a sleigh.

Here’s hoping their hearts grew three sizes that day.

“The Grinch,”

directed by Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier

Run time: 88 min.

* * * (out of four)

Rated PG for brief rude humor


Recent Posts

See All


Lycoming Critic’s Corner, June 2020 (for ON THE PULSE website) One reason Lycoming Critic’s Corner loves movies is their power to heal: to make us think; to challenge assumptions and biases; to hold o


  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon

© 2017 by Joseph W. Smith III. Proudly created with