When thinking about Christmas, what comes to mind?
Is it the picture of western consumerism in his big red coat?
Or is it the tellfull tale of How The Grinch Stole Christmas?
Maybe it could be the roast dinner your family come together to devour each 12 months. For most, Christmas cinema is one of the highlights of the season and a tradition that all must enjoy. The very first Christmas film, ‘Santa Claus’ by George Albert Smith in 1898 was as sophisticated as cinema had seen before the turn of the century and was considered a masterpiece. What Mr. Smith would not have realised is the legacy he would have created, the novelty genre of Christmas cinema.
Fast forward a hundred years and we have pretty much had every type of Christmas film you could imagine. ‘Die Hard’ gave us action, ‘Gremlins’ gave us horror and ‘Bad Santa’ gave us an alcoholic and abusive Santa (and yes I love that film). But one of the most iconic of festive films, if not one of the most iconic of modern cinema, is that of an angry hairy creature known as, The Grinch.
‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ is a children’s book written by the king of rhyming poetry, Dr. Seuss in 1957. It’s popularity in the US across the 1960’s lead to a film adaptation only 9 years after it’s publish date, an animation with the voice of Boris Karloff. The story of ‘The Grinch’ is a heavy criticism of consumerism culture across Christmas and is seen as some as a mystical autobiography of Dr Seuss himself. Although it’s popularity in the education system carried on throughout the 20th Century, it wasn’t until 2000 that we were delivered the iconic adaptation we have all eventually learned to love. ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ starred the iconic and universally adored Jim Carrey, directed by Academy award winning Ron Howard and produced by Academy award winner Brian Grazer (both of whom formed Imagine Entertainment, who created ‘A Beautiful Mind’, ‘Apollo 13’ and ‘Frost/Nixon’, among others). The film was released in December, 2000 and grossed over $345 million worldwide, which was the sixth-highest grossing film of 2000and the second highest-grossing Christmas film of all-time (at the time), behind (you know this one right?), ‘Home Alone’.
It’s safe to say it did well and it become a cult classic. Not many millennial’s haven’t seen the feature film and most could quote one of Jim Carrey’s iconic lines. So, the question is, why did Hollywood 18 years later decide that an animation adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch was worth the $75 million budget and any of my attention?
By the team who developed the Despicable Me franchise (not that you would really credit this as a franchise, but they have grossed over £2 billion worldwide) and involving a cast including, Grammy award winning Pharrell Williams and SNL legend Kenan Thompson. The film has been critically praised, grossing well in excess of its budget and is genuinely a heart warming film. Throughout the 1 hour 47 minute running time, the film delivers on laughter, sadness and genuine delight. The characters aren’t flawed and the animation is seamless throughout. Yet, their feels absolutely nothing worthwhile about this film. Literally nothing. Why spend 5 years and a lot of money recreating a story we all know and love, without adding anything original or unique. It almost feels like a 4 o’clock kid’s show, that just doesn’t end quick enough.
It is surprising that an actor as unique as Benedict Cumberbatch involved himself in this project. Yes his persona is very matching of the character and the narration aids hugely to his performance but it just feel’s awfully ironic. This story of ‘The Grinch’ is a commentary on consumerism and is famed for it’s anti-Christmas storyline. Yet this film was essentially only made to make money. It has consumerism at the heart of it’s creation and its marketing is a huge pointer towards this, this film was not created artistic aesthetics or to create legacy. It is hugely flawed in development and is a child’s film that no one really needed and will forever be forgotten about. So why go through the effort? Money.
You can forgive them for this path of pointless cinema, after all it is a kid’s film. The film isn’t trying to hurt anyone and it genuinely is an enjoyable film for the festive season, but don’t expect anything you haven’t seen before on the your TV this fall.