Liberal icon the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) valiantly continues the war on Christmas by taking on Whoville, the Christmassiest town south of Lapland, home to the obsessively festive Whos. Their insufferable niceties and desire to impose their religious beliefs on everyone they meet invoke entirely understandable fury in the green, furry antisanta, who elects to lay bare the overly decked halls of Hellville.
This is the second cinematic version of the Zeuss-does-Scrooge tale featuring Oscar the Grouch’s distant cousin, the first featuring Jim Carrey beneath a labour-intensive makeup job. It’s a rare case of a live action film being remade as an animation, given current trends in the other direction. But as it remains the second-highest-grossing Christmas film of all time, behind Home Alone, it’s clear why Universal wanted another bite at the Christmas pudding.
The original film was a witty family caper, with self-aware humour emphasising the Grinch’s inherently subversive nature as a seasonal antihero, and when I first saw it aged 9 it was the funniest thing in the world. This re-grinching is a more straightforward kiddie affair.
The story is essentially the same Krampus-for-kids tale: the Grinch steals the entire town’s Christmas paraphernalia, only to realise he can’t win against the hopelessly happy Whos, so he gives in and starts saying Merry Christmas again.
The animation is decent, the voice acting unexceptional and the jokes barely existent. As a result it feels more like it comes from a Hollywood production line than Santa’s workshop. Its attempts to give the film heart, including a young girl who just wants to give her mum a day off for Christmas, are sickly sweet as a festive candy cane, and it’s hard to ever really care.
This is a completely unnecessary remake of a festive favourite, which would have been better if they had followed the Grinch’s original plan and dumped it on Crumpet. Or in the Mexican desert with those ET video games. Bah, humbug.