MOVIE BUFF-ET: New version of ‘Grinch’ is fine but forgettable


I have to admit up front that I’m sort of a Scrooge when it concerns Dr. Seuss’ Christmas prankster the Grinch.

The green meanie has always been my least favorite of the classic animated Christmas characters that charmed me and a host of other children since TV Christmas specials were in vogue in the 1960s and ‘70s.

At age 51 and thankfully still counting, I’ve never known a Christmas without Charlie Brown’s buddy Linus explaining the true meaning of Christmas, or Rudolph conquering the Bumble and then guiding Santa’s sleigh on that historic foggy night, or one in which the Grinch didn’t attempt to steal Christmas.

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I’m not sure why the 1966 animated the version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” never clicked with me. It has terrific animation by the great Chuck Jones, who directed many of the best Warner Bros. cartoons, including a slew with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. It also benefits from the creepy narration of horror icon Boris Karloff, featuring his signature British lisp. The story is also heartfelt, reminding us that the stuff of Christmas is no match for the true spirit of the season which dwells in the hearts of all people of good will. It’s truly a classic story.

But still the toon never resonated with me.

I know the Ron Howard-directed live-action version of the story from 2000 is revered by many. The make-up and special effects are astonishing, but I truly can’t stand the film. Jim Carrey is a live-action cartoon character, but his performance was too much, and the film proved unsettling and unfunny enough that I was tempted to walk out on the movie.

So, what does that have to do with the latest version of the tale directed by Scott Mosier and starring the voice talent of Benedict Cumberbatch as the Grinch?

Not a lot other than disclosing my mild bias against the property.

With that said, I found the the new animated feature that runs just under an hour and a half to be pleasant but a bit too long.

The computer-generated animation was beautiful, and I found myself chuckling from time to time. Some minor additions are added that work to varying degrees, but the story remains a bit too thin for its running time. I’m sure knowing the basic plot of the film like the back of my hand had something to do with my boredom.

I did like the way the screenplay by Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow fleshed out Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) and her widowed, single mother Donna Lou Who (Rashida Jones). However, their attempt to add depth to the Grinch’s childhood kind of falls flat. I also enjoyed Kenan Thompson’s voice work as the character Bricklebaum, the jolliest man in Whoville, but Cumberbatch’s work as the lead character was fine but forgettable.

My guess is that “The Grinch” would likely keep most kids under 10 entertained for most of the movie’s running time, but there is very little for adults familiar with any of the other versions of the story.

While the movie isn’t bad, I’d suggest families save their money for another more original movie to see in the theater, and just watch the original Grinch cartoon when it airs later this holiday season. Then catch this version on TV next Christmas.

(PG) 1 hr. 26 min.
Grade: C

Classic Corner

Die Hard

Twentieth Century Fox

(R) 2 hr. 20 min.

The 1980s was the decade of the action hero with stars like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and a host of others righting wrongs, dealing death, and wreaking havoc in cineplexes all across America.

It was an awesome time to be a teenage movie buff, but as much as I love Chuck, Arnie, Sly, for my money the best action flick of the 1980s starred Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman in career defining roles of John McClane and Hans Gruber in “Die Hard.”

Director John McTiernan’s action-thriller is a classic among classics that catapulted Willis from being a TV personality on “Moonlighting” to an out and out movie star of the first order. The script allowed Willis’ charm, charisma, and humor shine while still allowing his McClane to be relatable as a hard-working cop who uses all his wits, guile, and physicality to flaunt a terrorist attack on the Nakatomi Corporation, which employs his wife.

Rickman is just as strong as Willis as Gruber, a German criminal who is masterminding the terrorist heist. For my money, Gruber is one of the best villains in all of movie filmdom. He’s right up there with Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Darth Vader from “Star Wars,” and Hannibal Lector in “The Silence of the Lambs.”

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Cinema and Grill is showing “Die Hard” on the big screen at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday in honor of the film’s 30th anniversary.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Warner Bros.

(PG) 1 hr. 16 min.
Until director Christopher Nolan’s instant classic “The Dark Night” opened in 2008, the best Batman movie bar none was the 1993 animated movie “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.”

The film was an extension of “Batman: the Animated Series” and was directed by the series creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski and written by a crew of the series’ best writers in Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Martin Pasco, and Michael Reeves. The movie featured the voice acting skills of Kevin Conroy as the Batman, Mark Hamill as the Joker as well as the rest of the regulars from the TV show, but it also included notables Dana Delany, Stacy Beach, Abe Vigoda, and Hart Bochner.

Delany voices Andrea Beaumont, a childhood friend that comes back into Bruce Wayne’s life and tempts him to give up his cape-and-cowl crusade for justice.

The movie is partly based on two classic Batman comic-book stories from Batman No. 237 and Batman: Year Two Fear the Reaper in Detective Comes Nos. 575-578, but the added twist makes the story even more compelling.

In the film, Batman is not only challenged by the Joker, but also is tasked with stopping a vengeful murderer who is brutally taking out key members of Gotham City’s underworld.

The story contains all the action, pathos, and heartbreak the has made Batman one of the most popular characters of any medium for generations.

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Cinema and Grill is showing “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” on the big screen at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday in honor of the film’s 25th anniversary.