No matter which version of the classic redemption story you watch or read, the Grinch’s heart always grows three sizes thanks to the relentless holiday cheer of those Whos down in Whoville.
So you can be forgiven for taking a Grinch-like attitude toward The Grinch, the latest big-screen adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss short story, which has the whiff of a Christmas cash grab even if it inevitably provides some warm fuzzies.
Part of the problem is that this computer-animated version will draw obligatory comparisons to the endlessly charming 1966 Chuck Jones cartoon, narrated by Boris Karloff, which remains a holiday television perennial.
The familiar story centers on the green-skinned Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), a cynical misanthrope who lives a solitary life in a mountain cave with his loyal dog.
For him, the primary nuisance is his interaction with the citizens of nearby Whoville, whose holiday celebrations become brighter and louder and more elaborate each year. So he hatches a Christmas Eve plan to steal their gifts and decorations by impersonating Santa, with his pooch pulling a makeshift sleigh.
The scheme backfires, of course, when he runs into little Cindy Lou (Cameron Seely), the precocious daughter of a single mother (Rashida Jones) whose optimism threatens to soften the spiteful Grinch’s hatred for all things Christmas.
Rookie directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier clearly are trying to update the source material for a new generation of youngsters with short attention spans, filling the screen with sight gags and chaotic slapstick sequences at almost every opportunity.
Likewise, the screenplay takes some liberties with the text from the source material, at one point making a reference to video games in the rhyming narration, and infuses some of the music with contemporary beats. Some new characters register more strongly than others.
Cumberbatch’s charismatic voice work is deviously delightful in the title role, while the animation is vibrant and sharply detailed, making the experience overall more pleasant than the obnoxious 2000 live-action Ron Howard retelling that starred Jim Carrey.
Children might appreciate the easily digestible lessons about inclusion and generosity in a fast-paced film that modestly captures the festive spirit of the Seuss book. But for more discerning viewers, this incarnation leaves a taste of warmed-over roast beast.