'The Grinch' strains under feature-length loot

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" remains arguably the best of TV's animated Christmas specials. Yet the Chuc...

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 5:46 PM
Updated: Nov 7, 2018 5:46 PM

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" remains arguably the best of TV's animated Christmas specials. Yet the Chuck Jones/Dr. Seuss holiday classic is a model of storytelling economy, whereas the new version, "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch," captures sparks of that magic while straining to treble its size -- like the Grinch's small heart, only here for theatrical purposes.

In that regard, this "Grinch," which features Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the title character, has a good deal in common with "The Lorax," another Illumination Entertainment adaptation of a Seuss staple, which felt similarly labored in fleshing out its story.

Christmas

Holidays and observances

To its credit, a few of the new elements in "The Grinch" are pretty nifty, perhaps most notably an expanded visual representation of Whoville, the idyllic town whose Christmas festivities become the object of the Grinch's ire. The other major additions are both new -- little Cindy Lou Who, in this telling way more than two, is now the concerned daughter of a single mom struggling to make ends meet -- and very old, providing the Grinch an origin story that vaguely echoes why young Ebenezer Scrooge was so hostile to the holidays.

Other tacked-on elements are colorful, if fairly broad and garishly comedic, from an overweight reindeer who becomes part of the Grinch's plot to an ebullient Whoville resident Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson) whose wholesale embrace of Christmas cheer represents everything that the Grinch isn't.

Much of that feels like filler, perhaps inevitably, as the Grinch builds up to the idea of stealing the Whos' Christmas; devises an elaborate plan to execute his scheme; and finally, comes to recognize the true spirit of the season, which, as Cindy Lou's mom (Rashida Jones) tells her, is about more than mere "stuff."

The heartwarming aspects have to work pretty hard to knife through the clutter, and the uplifting ending -- while still good -- has been somewhat blunted in pursuit of a slightly more expansive message. Movie length also robs the Seuss-ian dialogue of some of its poetry, even with a Pharrell Williams narration that draws heavily on the script from the original production.

Finally, there's Cumberbatch's voice work, which involves adopting a slightly nasal twang that, frankly, won't make anybody forget Boris Karloff, and really makes one yearn to hear the actor's resonant baritone, British accent and all.

The underlying bones of "The Grinch" are so solid the movie can't help but be moderately pleasing. But to borrow from another holiday special, the commercial imperative to adorn the story with shiny baubles to suit the frenetic demands of modern animation is a bit like the little Christmas tree that Charlie Brown brings home to Linus and the gang. Yes, it's nice to dress it up a bit, but one bulb too many can potentially topple the whole thing.

"Dr. Seuss' The Grinch" premieres Nov. 9 in the U.S. It's rated PG.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319511

Reported Deaths: 7368
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22267267
Hinds20657421
Harrison18401317
Rankin13868282
Jackson13681248
Madison10239224
Lee10052176
Jones8458167
Forrest7824153
Lauderdale7257242
Lowndes6501150
Lamar634088
Lafayette6303121
Washington5419136
Bolivar4836133
Panola4665110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4600147
Marshall4572105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425073
Union415677
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386487
Leflore3515125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3368111
Alcorn324272
Scott319774
Yazoo314171
Adams305886
Itawamba305078
Copiah299666
Coahoma298484
Simpson298189
Tippah291868
Prentiss283661
Leake271774
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231268
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187754
Stone187433
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174032
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry126738
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman81916
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69432
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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The relative lack of humidity has been a welcome change from the summertime stuffiness we’ve had lately. That lack of humidity will once again ensure that temperatures get down into the mid 60s for early morning Thursday. While Friday morning will remain comfortable as well, rain chances ratchet up as a tropical system approaches this weekend.
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