Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018)

 

Released: November 9, 2018. Directed by: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier. Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Seely, Rashida Jones. Runtime: 1h, 26 min.

When I went to see “Overlord” in November, I overheard a mom saying to her kid “Are you excited for your first movie?” Knowing how cool it is to see your first movie at a theatre, I was bummed he was seeing something as mediocre as “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” for his first movie at the theatre.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” is the third adaption of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! where Benedict Cumberbatch voices the titular Grinch in a version that doesn’t add anything new or interesting to the story.

This time, The Grinch isn’t particularly feared and is just seen as meaner than the average Who. He still doesn’t like Christmas, so when the Who’s bring in a gigantic Christmas tree, he hatches a plan to put an end to their happiness: Steal Christmas.

Illumination Entertainment’s animation style fits Seuss’s style, especially his inventions which the animation brings to life well. I like their vision of Whoville, but the animation is the only good part of the film, even though it makes Cindy-Lou Who (Cameron Seely) look like a Martian with her pigtails sticking up in the air, and the character design’s similar to “Despicable Me.”

As for the story, there’s just not enough plot for a feature film. It’s just told with very little creativity, and there are no Jim Carrey kind-of antics to distract from the lack of story.

The Grinch featured

Benedict Cumberbatch in Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (IMDb)

Cumberbatch is fine as the Grinch, but he’s not terribly memorable. Nothing about this film is memorable, and the main source of laughs come from the Grinch’s cheery neighbour (Keenan Thompson) and the Grinch’s dog Max and an overweight reindeer, and the Grinch trolling the citizens of Whoville made me smile, but those moments were the only times I did.

Pharrell Williams’ monotone narration also does not help matters of entertainment. Since you already know which direction is going, I was getting antsy for the Grinch just to steal Christmas, but it feels like it takes forever to get there. There just aren’t many interesting characters to watch in this one, as the Grinch and Cindy Lou’s interactions are extremely limited until he makes his Christmas heist.

Even then, it’s a bit of a cliche way for Cindy Lou to meet him – setting up a Rube Goldberg trap to try to catch Santa Claus so she can ask him for something selfless.

We know about the Grinch’s loneliness and we know that he steals Christmas and that his heart grows three sizes, but this version doesn’t delve into any kind of new backstory or anything interesting, for that matter. And it was just kind of weird seeing a version where the people aren’t afraid of the Grinch. But for this version, the filmmakers just unfortunately don’t do anything to make it memorable.

Score: 50/100

 

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Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Despicable Me 2Released: July 3, 2013. Directed by: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt. Runtime: 98 min.

I don’t remember some of the first movies I’ve ever seen. At least the first one I saw at the theatre… I’ve been trying to remember, but I haven’t come up with the answer yet. I blame my memory and my Mom and Dad’s poor memory. Thanks a lot, parents! (Just kidding. You’re great.) Anyway, my point is, “Despicable Me 2” is a perfect choice for your weekend’s family-friendly entertainment. If your kids haven’t been to the theater to see a movie in their lives yet, even better. It will be a memorable first experience. Just make sure your tyke is five or six years old (as there is one intense-ish scare that could spook your little ones, as a child at the screening I attended, who looked about four years old, started crying; but more on that later), and they’ll have a great time. This film is endearing, charming, fitfully funny and a whole lot of other flattering adjectives.

“DM2” is a remarkably well-written tale of a bad guy who isn’t exactly a bad guy any more. Gru (Steve Carell) has hung up most of his awesome gadgets and weapons and he is trying to kickstart a business selling jellies (and maybe jams, but he’s undecided on that). Things begin to go awry when a new super-villain steals a serum that turns innocent little bunny rabbits into crazy purple beasts who will eat anything in their path. The Anti-Villain League, led by Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), recruits Gru to take down this super-villain, because he thinks like one. Gru and super agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) go undercover to take down the baddies, and hit things off in the process.

“DM2” struggles to repeat the magic of its predecessor in some aspects (with its antagonist), while it improves on it in others (with its elevated slapstick humour). The new villain is inferior to Vector of the first movie, but he produces a few laughs. He also receives an appealing back-story, and he’s particularly evil. He just isn’t the most amazing villain you’ll ever see, but the voicework enlivens him a bit. I won’t say the name of the villain, because the marketing campaign has done a good job at keeping the villain a secret from the movie-going public; but anyone over the age of five or six, will be able to see who the villain is before the “reveal”. The antagonist may be the movie’s weakest aspect, but it is strong in so many other ways.

DM2It has great heart, appealing themes of family and love, and well-written characters. Carell truly brings it again as Gru, and the character is given new layers as he struggles with over-protective fatherly instincts over his eldest daughter, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), who is attracted to Antonio (Moises Arias), the son of a restaurant owner, Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt), who is suspected of stealing the serum. Gru’s mission also gets blinded by his growing attraction to Lucy. You’ll fall in love with Gru all over again, even if he isn’t yet above blasting someone with his trusty freeze ray. The unicorn-loving Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher), the youngest daughter, is growing up very well, but she still maintains all of her signature cuteness. She also seems to be more mature than the middle child, Edith (Dana Gaier), who never feels more than a petite supporting role. Eduardo is amusing, but he is practically every Mexican stereotype shoved into one character. Kristen Wiig is just being herself to great effect as Lucy Wilde, an improvement over the cruel Miss Hattie (Wiig’s character in the first movie). Thankfully, this super agent isn’t super annoying; she turns out to be an endearing presence, and one can easily open up to her cuckoo for cocoa puffs kinda personality.

Despicable Me 2wsgg

And of course, there are the minions. They are as funny as ever with just the right amount of screen presence. They will help you watch this with a gleeful smile on your face, as they deal out slapstick humour, talk in their made-up gibberish language of Minion-ese, and sing renditions of All 4 One’s “I Swear” and Village People’s “YMCA”. (It’s seriously laugh-out-loud hilarious; and you won’t be able to stop laughing when you hear these songs in the future.) All of these characters help enrich 2013’s funniest animated film.

I think animated movies have quite a magic about them. They make me feel like a kid again (even though I just turned eighteen in December), but I still do view them with a mature eye. I see this movie as both an animated movie with lots of endearing characters and kiddish humour the little tykes will enjoy; but I also see it as a great family film with some AWESOME super-hero/super-villain action sequences and some hysterical slapstick humour, that adults will enjoy. They won’t feel the need to steal their kids’ Twizzlers and use it to strangle themselves.

Some scenes in animated movies are intense nowadays, at least for kids. “Monsters University” even has a sequence that plays out like an ode to horror movies. This film has an intense scene that could spook the hell out of kids. (So, please don’t bring any kids under the age of four or five, in case it makes them cry. In which case, it will make the 18-year-old film critic sitting in the fourth row want to knock someone the f*ck out.) All of these somewhat intense scenes have me thinking some studio should make an animated horror flick. (Oh please! It worked well with 2006’s “Monster House”…) Now that will give more adults something to feast on.

I give you... Samuel L. Jackson as a Minion. The resemblance is uncanny!

I give you… Samuel L. Jackson as a Minion. The resemblance is uncanny! (It’s been pointed out that this minion is a nod to Ted Lange in Love Boat; but this was the best picture I could find that’s closest to Jackson; I’m 95% certain there was a taller minion that looked more like S. L. Jackson…)

“Despicable Me 2” has a great atmosphere and it’s rivaled by its predecessor and Pixar’s “The Incredibles” as best animated super hero (super villain?) movie. This is the hardest I’ve fallen in love with an animated universe, that wasn’t created by Pixar. This might not make you bawl like a Pixar movie, but it will warm your heart a heck of a lot. It’s sure to entertain and make you laugh, if you have a measurable sense of humour. This movie brings a huge smile to my face, and I hope it has that effect on you. This original movie doesn’t have to be as good as “The Incredibles” or any other Pixar movie really, because this isn’t Pixar. This is Illumination Entertainment. They have created a movie with an amazing attention to detail (like making so many minions different, and even making one minion that looks a lot like Samuel L. Jackson as Jules in “Pulp Fiction”), and a spectacular universe. The music chosen by Pharrell Williams is quite possibly better this time around. I love this studio making movies, because they’re entertaining, charming and heartfelt. Illumination Entertainment is here to stay.

This movie also has cool cars, adorable minions, jokes you’ll be laughing about long after, and Steve Carell giving us an instantly recognizable Eastern European accent, that is the voice of Gru. That is my idea of a great time at the movies. In the words of Gru, “That’s what *I’m* talking, about!”

Score88/100