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With: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones, Pharrell Williams, Tristan O'Hare, Kenan Thompson (voices)
Written by: Michael LeSieur, Tommy Swerdlow, based on a story by Dr. Seuss
Directed by: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier
MPAA Rating: PG for brief rude humor
Running Time: 86
Date: 11/09/2018

The Grinch (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

From Mean to Clean

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This second big-screen re-do of Dr. Seuss's 1957 kids' book and Chuck Jones's1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! TV special is a little lightweight, but it's a drastic improvement over the gaudy, vulgar 2000 live-action movie by Ron Howard. To tell the truth, this Grinch's brevity and bright, bold colors may be just the kind of thing to relax and get lost in this holiday season. The Grinch has been softened a little so that he's not just mean for mean's sake; now he's mean because he's actually sad. This may sound silly, but it actually makes more sense, and the transformation from naughty to nice is more satisfying. (Before, the mean Grinch was so much more fun than the nice one.) Plus, now we don't have to endure the character being so darn nasty to his dog, Max.

Benedict Cumberbatch provides his measured voice, and the animators have given him softer, cat-like fur so that he's a bit more cuddly. In stretching out the brief story, the movie strikes upon a clever idea. Cindy Lou Who (voiced by Cameron Seely) fails to send her letter to Santa (she wishes for some help for her frenzied single mom, voiced by Rashida Jones) and cooks up a plan to speak to Santa when he comes on Christmas Eve. That's it, and it allows for both subplots to culminate at the same time. The movie comes in at just 86 minutes, never wearing out its welcome. It's not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but it does more or less provide constant smiles. The design is glorious, like a spectacular store-window display that you can zoom around in, so good that it might even be worth subsequent viewings. Only the music seems a little loud and harsh for how gentle the material is. Pharrell Williams narrates, reading some quasi-Seuss rhymes that aren't quite as imaginative as the real thing, but they work.

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