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‘Grinch’ has heart just the right size

November 17, 2018

Try as you might, it’s nearly impossible to escape the glut of new Christmas-themed films being dangled like spangly ornaments in front of us each and every day. Sure, there is the resurrection of various traditional fare. “A Christmas Story,” “Polar Express” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” are sure bets, along with one of the variations of “A Christmas Carol” rebroadcast.

The Hallmark Channel is doubling down on its box-wine-swilling demographic and has coddled them with no fewer than 18 new schmaltz-filled titles. “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas” sounds deceptively kinky, and “Homegrown Christmas” gives the impression it should be set in newly legalized Canada. Not to be outdone, Lifetime is also filling its schedule with 18 new Christmas-themed releases. “Santa’s Boots” seems like it could be an equally kinky sequel to “Shoe Addict’s Christmas,” and “Every Day is Christmas” sounds more like a marketing goal for the channel than a film.

Aside from giving washed-up celebrities gainful employment, these films serve little purpose. Chances are good that 30 years from now, the family will not be gathered around the tube for their annual viewing of the Tom Arnold classic “Chasing Christmas” to get them in the holiday spirit.  They will, however, make an effort to find time to watch the 1966 animated “How the Grinch Stole Stole Christmas,” based on the Dr. Seuss book.

This year, we now have our third adaptation of the book, with Illumination Entertainment’s full-length feature simply titled “The Grinch” (the less said about the 2000 live-action Jim Carrey remake, the better). Illumination has made a tidy profit on the whole “antihero-with-a-heart-of-gold” storyline with the “Despicable Me” franchise, as well as being in the good graces of the Seuss estate with its 2012 adaptation of “The Lorax.”

And while it may not become the seasonal staple of your essential yuletide viewing like its 23-minute ancestor, “The Grinch” is the right blend of entertainment to satiate the wee ones during one of their many days off from school over the holiday season.

The blueprint has not changed much, with writers Michael Le Sieur and Tommy Swerdlow sticking to the basics, and perhaps even softening up the ol’ sourpuss, who’s more of a bruised banana as opposed to a greasy black-peeled one. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, this version of the Grinch is actually more like a grumpy neighbor of Whoville in the vein of Mr. Wilson from “Dennis the Menace.”

The Grinch is also kind to the local animal population as well, including a beefy caribou named Fred who joins in their adventures. While most adventures include ruining the season for the nearby Whos, there is a sanding of rough edges that is actually refreshing. In a time in which real-world bullies go unscathed, or worse, are rewarded for their behavior, making the Grinch less of a bully and demonstrating a slight streak of compassion and humanity is actually more effective.

“The Grinch” is perfectly suitable kiddie matinee fare that will pass the time for parents in the audience as well and goes down as easy as a well-done slice of roast beast.  

  • Rob is the head of the English and Communications Department at Delaware Technical Community College, where he teaches film. He is also one of the founders of the Rehoboth Beach Film Society and is lead entertainment writer for Influx Magazine. Email him at filmrob@gmail.com.