Grinch is a character who is an icon during the Christmas season and The Grinch (2018) is the second film of the character. The first, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) received mixed reviews, it is now a Christmas classic and this positions The Grinch (2018) in a place where it should be able to respect the classic story and stand on its own two feet. The question is, does it truly achieve this goal?
The Grinch is set in the village of Whoville plans to celebrate Christmas three times bigger, louder, and brighter. The Grinch follows a grumpy Grinch who plots to ruin Christmas for the Whos of Whoville so he can get some peace and quiet.
Illumination Entertainment’s animated retelling of the story is a safe and entertaining take on the classic tale but doesn’t capture the humanity or the meaning of Christmas, unlike the original story. The Grinch is designed to make it easily watchable in a manner that requires little thought and to just enjoy what is happening on-screen. The highlight of this film is the relationship between Grinch and his dog, Max, which provides most of the laughs as the two embark on their adventure to ruin Christmas. Illumination Entertainment typically has a tendency to make their content overly cute in order to gain easy approval from mainstream viewers but they don’t rely on that in this film. Rather, the characters are subjected to environments where they contribute to the plot instead of being sidelined as a cute mascot to the audience.
On the negative side, the main aspect is that it strips back some of the layers of Dr Suess’s classic tale to create a seemingly bland and boring retelling. It’s clear that the film is designed primarily for children but the absence of messages or themes for kids make it fairly uninteresting and tasteless for all ages. Illumination Entertainment fails to understand that blending in strong messages and themes inside a kids film provides depth and heart and without them, the movie remains dull.
A budget of only $75 million, Illumination Entertainment doubles down on using bright colours to compensate for lack of detail. The film has a very glossy polish to it as the lack of texture in the environments and characters make it feel very artificial which makes it difficult to get immersed in the world of Whoville. A high amount of the film is all static shots and it’s poorly stitched together which disrupts the flow and style of the film. There is a close attention to colour and good effort in its lighting which make the film visually more desirable. The composition has no inspiration and is never really used appropriately; it lacks impact as the sound feels totally generic rather than feeling unique towards the Grinch or Whoville. The use of songs is weird and horrendously out of place, such as Tyler, The Creator’s theme song for The Grinch just not being suited towards the film or character.
Overall, this film does succeed in its main intention which is meant to be an entertaining retelling of the classic Grinch story for children. It, unfortunately, misses the mark when it comes to reminding us why this story is so special. Its inability to integrate themes, messages or any other layer to this Christmas classic is unsurprising, given that Illumination has never truly excelled in this area. It’s a fun time for the family at the movies with some laughs along the way, just don’t expect to get much coming out of it. The Grinch proves to give a reason for its existence and succeeds in relation to its target demographic, however, it fails to add anything to the source material and its heart is two sizes too small.