You have met him in a book, you have seen him on a screen; in musicals and Seussical and Jim Carrey scary green. Would a heart be three sizes too small to say we do not need another Grinch at all? (Maybe, though not nearly as annoying as an all-rhyming movie review.)
The latest animated iteration of Christmas’ most famous nemesis might not be strictly necessary, but it’s still pretty fun — and revamped just enough to feel fresh. The narrator is Pharrell Williams; the great rebooted theme song is by Tyler, the Creator; Benedict Cumberbatch, valiantly shedding everything British, is the voice of our peevish, acid-hued antihero. He still looks like an angry centipede who swallowed a guava, and he still hates the holidays with the heat of a thousand winter suns. But it’s not hard to find the soft heart beneath the he’s-a-mean-one scheming.
Cumbergrinch lives alone above the twinkling gingerbread village of Whoville with only the loyal, yappy Max — who is somehow both a house pet and a butler — for company. And how he loathes the happy Whos: the sweet boy making a snowman; the jolly neighbor (Kenan Thompson) stringing up lights; bouncy, pigtailed Cindy-Lou (Cameron Seely), who just wants to catch Santa Claus in the act so she can ask him to help her overworked single mom (Rashida Jones). So he’s hatched a plan to impersonate the big man with the help of Max, a red suit, and a morbidly obese reindeer.
Illumination, the studio behind The Secret Life of Pets and Despicable Me, makes it all look richly dimensional, and wisely doesn’t push the story past the 90-minute mark. Kids could still watch the peerless 1966 original, though their blooming little cortexes will probably respond to the shiny-bright novelty here — and be newly spellbound by a tale almost as old as color television, but still evergreen. B+