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Movie Review: Who stole ‘The Grinch’?

“The Grinch” almost stole the Christmas movie. The 2018 iteration of the Dr. Seuss’ classic takes a lot of the fun out of previous versions of “The Grinch.”

The real question is: Who stole “The Grinch”? That said, the film has its amusing moments and is gorgeous to look at.

The primary source material (other than The Grinch and his machinations being inspired by Charles Dicken’s Scrooge in the “A Christmas Carol” 1843 novella) is the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” 1957 children’s book written and illustrated by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.

The first filmed adaptation of the book was director Chuck Jones’ 26-min. animated TV film (1966) with Boris Karloff as The Grinch and as narrator. The animation of the TV film stayed true to Dr. Seuss’ original quirky drawings.

Director Ron Howard added back-story and additional plot for the 2000 live-action 1 hr., 45 min. film that starred Jim Carrey as The Grinch.

The 2018 3D computer-animated film adaptation adds more storyline and stars Benedict Cumberbatch voicing The Grinch.

The latest version, which was seen in regular format for this review, is sleek and stunning-looking and sticks to the basic storyline, as do the other screen versions.

The Grinch lives in a cave. The Whoville residents are as sweet as pumpkin pie. The Grinch again endeavors to steal the Christmas presents and decorations.

You have to give directors Yarrow Cheney (co-director “The Secret Life Of Pets,” 2016) and Scott Mosier (theatrical feature co-directing debut) credit for even tackling such a classic as “The Grinch.” As with the many film versions of “A Christmas Carol” about Scrooge, the story of The Grinch is a sturdy enough evergreen from which to hang many shiny baubles.

The screenplay by Michael LeSieur (“Keeping Up With The Jones,” 2016; “You, Me And Dupree,” 2006) and Tommy Swerdlow (“Cool Runnings,” 1993), tends toward the cliched and hackneyed in new characters, plot and comedy.

The latest feature film is produced by Illumination, a film and animation studio known for “Despicable Me” (2010) and “Despicable Me 2” (2013), with its Minions characters, and “The Secret Life of Pets.”

One of the executive producers of “The Grinch” is Chris Renaud, a Parkland High School graduate, Class of 1985, who attended the Baum School of Art where he received a scholarship. Renaud directed other Illumination feature films, including “The Lorax” (2012), also based on a Dr. Seuss’ character, and “Despicable Me,” “Despicable Me 2” and “The Secret Life Of Pets.”

Though the main characters are based on those created by Dr. Seuss, the personalities and dialogue of other characters don’t have the snarky charm of the original book, nor the 1966 animated TV special. This is a kindler, gentler Grinch. That doesn’t work. As with Scrooge, a redemption story works best with the worst of the worst.

The Computer Generated Imagery of the 2018 release gives rounded features to many of the characters, eschewing the jittery, linear, naive quality of Dr. Seuss’ original drawings.

Some of the “The Grinch” characters have been “Minionized,” rendered in the emblematic style of Illumination, which is fine for most of the studio’s feature films, but diminishes the charm of the original Dr. Seuss’ characters drawings.

The voice talents, too, in “The Grinch” leave something to be desired. Even the great Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of The Grinch isn’t particularly memorable. Of course, Boris Karloff, who voiced The Grinch in the 1966 TV movie, and Jim Carrey, who played The Grinch in heavy makeup in the 2000 feature movie, are tough acts to follow.

Other voice talent includes Cameron Seely (Cindy-Lou Who), Rashida Jones (Donna Who), Kenan Thompson (Mr. Bricklebaum) and Angela Lansbury (Mayor McGerkle), with narration by Pharrell Williams.

The music score is Elfmanesque, which is not surprising since the score is by Danny Elfman. The soundtrack has the typical animation feature film pop-rock-dance hits, but none that rise to the occasion of a production number.

“The Grinch” will be of interest to Dr. Seuss fans, who may want to contrast and compare with previous versions and the book, and for pre-teens.

“The Grinch,” MPAA rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for for brief rude humor; Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family; Run time: 1 hr., 26 min.; Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “The Grinch” soundtrack has portions of numerous songs, including “Christmas In Hollis” by Run-DMC, “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You”) by Nat King Cole, and a version of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by Tyler The Creator.

Box Office, Dec. 14: “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” spun into No. 1, opening with $35.4 million, ending the three-week No. 1-run of “Ralph Breaks The Internet,” which dropped to No. 4 with $9.6 million, $154.5 million, four weeks, as “The Mule,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, opened at No. 2, with $17.2 million, and “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” dropped one slot to No. 3, with $11.5 million, $239.2 million, six weeks, with “Mortal Engines” stalling at No. 5, in what may be 2018’s biggest bomb, with $7.5 million, opening. 6. “Creed II” dropped three slots, $5.3 million, $104.8 million, four weeks. 7. “Bohemian Rhapsody” dropped two slots, $4.1 million, $180.4 million, seven weeks. 8. “Instant Family” dropped two slots, $3.7 million, $60.2 million, five weeks. 9. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald” dropped five slots, $3.6 million, $151.1 million, five weeks. 10. “Green Book” dropped three slots, $2.7 million, $24.6 million, five weeks.

Unreel, Dec. 21:

“Mary Poppins Returns,” PG: Rob Marshall directs Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer in the Musical Fantasy. Nanny dearest returns decades later to the Banks household.

“Aquaman,” PG-13: James Wan directs Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson Sci-Fi Action Film. Arthur Curry is heir to Atlantis, and must get his feet wet to become a hero.

“Bumblebee,” PG-13: Travis Knight directs Hailee Steinfeld, Dylan O’Brien, Justin Theroux and John Cena in the Sci-Fi Action film. A VW Beetle car comes to life as Bumblebee in a California beach town in 1987 in a Transformers sequel spinoff.

“Welcome to Marwen,” PG-13: Robert Zemeckis directs Steve Carell, Eiza González, Janelle Monáe and Diane Kruger in the Fantasy film based on a true story. After being attacked, a victim finds refuge in recreating a miniature fantasy world.

“Second Act,” PG-13: Peter Segal directs Jennifer Lopez, Vanessa Hudgens, Milo Ventimiglia and Leah Remini in the Romantic-Comedy. A retail store employee starts a new career on Madison Avenue.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED imageThe Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his dog Max in “The Grinch” 2018 computer generated imagery feature film.