So I Saw the New "Grinch" Movie and It Was... Good?

By no means do I consider myself a film buff—I mean, I’ve got the attention span of an amnesiac goldfish. That’s why I watch sarcastic YouTube reviews of movies, usually crappy ones, and live vicariously through people who can actually pay attention to movies. These videos are where I learn all of my insider info about infamous movie studios.

One of the studios that’s often used as a punching bag is Illumination, the creators of “Despicable Me,” “Sing” and “Hop.” They’re best known for the Minions (which I hate) and their ironically intense commercial marketing scheme for the anti-consumerism “Lorax” film adaptation. So naturally, when I heard they were making a new film adaptation of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (succinctly titled “The Grinch”), I was apprehensive at best.

And then I saw the movie.

Don’t get me wrong—it still has trademark Illumination flaws, including humor revolving around butts and dancing, but those are relegated to a few short scenes. In all, the movie is a fun contemporary spin on a classic story we all know and love.

The Good

The original 1966 “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” tells the story just as Dr. Seuss did—short, sweet and to-the-point. There’s no dramatic backstory as to why the Grinch wants to stop Christmas from coming. His heart, for whatever reason, is two sizes too small. And that’s enough.

However, that version just barely hits the half-hour mark. The 2018 Grinch film is a feature length production at 86 minutes. The writers decided to give the Grinch a little backstory that is quickly woven into the plot and becomes another internal conflict for the Grinch, even after (spoiler alert) Christmas is returned to Whoville.

To summarize: as a child, 2018’s Grinch only experienced Christmas while peeking through the frosted window of his orphanage home. Embittered that he seemed to be the only lonely person in the town, he ran away and moved to the cliff just north of Whoville. While his days have been spent with the loyal dog Max, whom this Grinch is unyieldingly kind to, the not-so-jolly green Grinch still bemoans his lack of a true family.

On the other hand, Whoville’s adorable Cindy Lou Who notices her single mother working herself to exhaustion to support three children. Cindy announces her plan to capture Santa and talk to him, because all she wants for Christmas is for Santa to make her mom happy. Cue tears from the entire audience.

Of course, the Santa she catches is none other than the Grinch, who is in the process of stealing Christmas from the Lou Who residence. Quite the conundrum, if I do say so myself.

Where this film succeeds is in its balance of loyalty to the source material and expansion of the world of Whoville. Without spoiling the ending, I want to applaud the writers for making the Grinch’s transition into liking Christmas a little more human. We all love a happy ending, of course, but this film’s slow pacing ultimately pays off. For this reason alone, I’d say it’s worth seeing this film at least once. Plus, the modern takes on classic Christmas music (including Tyler the Creator’s addictive cover of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch”) make the film refreshing without being too “of the time.”

The Bad

Illumination Studios is by no means my favorite studio—far from it, actually. I think part of this film’s success comes from the fact that it’s an adaptation, not an original story (looking at you, “Hop” and “Sing”). Then again, “The Lorax” was an adaptation that turned out… badly. Like, really badly.

That’s not to say “The Grinch” is a perfect film. The slow pace does pay off, but it makes the movie’s second act drag. The Grinch’s Christmas-stealing preparations go on for about twenty minutes too long, and despite the slapstick, don’t hold enough weight to keep audiences entertained.

The new character of Fred the Reindeer only exists as a Chekov’s gun, vanishing as soon as he appears and reappearing in a single crucial moment. While Fred represents the Grinch’s fear of being abandoned, such a concept could easily have been done without him. For example, what if the Grinch and Max got separated, but the Grinch assumed Max ran away? Max’s return would teach him to be less paranoid and reveal just how loyal his dog is.

The Skinny

The additions to the “Grinch” universe in this film are really a mixed bag. Some (like the slower ending) make the story so much more heartwarming, while others (like Fred) just feel like filler. However, people are more likely to remember the overall message of the story than any of the added scenes.

Does this film beat out the original? Oh, definitely not. But is it worth the price of a matinee ticket? Absolutely.