‘Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch’ Review: Pointy-Headed and Pointless

Posted November 7, 2018 10:27 p.m. EST

Grousing about pointless remakes is a critical activity so frequently practiced that it’s become a form of conventional wisdom. As such, I try to resist the reflex. However, I am flummoxed by “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,” a computer-animated iteration of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The book was an instant classic in 1957 and still sells oodles today.

The 1966 television special version combined the geniuses of director Chuck Jones and voice actor Boris Karloff with that of Dr. Seuss, and yielded a still-delightful half-hour of entertainment. The latest version, like the unfortunate 2000 live-action film starring Jim Carrey, pads out the parable with slapstick business and character enlargement.

Providing the Grinch a poignant backstory creates its own quandary. While ostensibly explaining how the Grinch got so Grinch-like, it also inclines the viewer to raise other questions. How did he score that mountaintop mansion? What’s with the elaborately twisted pipe organ? And why does such a miserable being have such an utterly nice dog?

Said dog, Max, is the most charming character in this version, directed by Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney. The filmmakers keep the visuals merry and popping bright. Benedict Cumberbatch, voicing the Grinch, opts not to compete with Karloff at all, which is smart, and speaks in an American accent, sounding rather like Bill Hader, which is confusing. A tepid hip-hop song about the Grinch plays over the end credits. It’s by Tyler, the Creator, who only a few years ago was considered one of the saltiest (to put it mildly) voices in music. Here, his contribution is as toothless as the rest of the movie.

Additional Information:

‘Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch’

Rated PG for “some crude humor” and perhaps because it might inspire youngsters to explore Tyler, the Creator’s earlier work.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.