The second go at a twenty-first century feature-length Grinch movie is a thoroughly, spectacularly bland movie. This mediocre enterprise barely stretches to feature length at 86 minutes and it lacks the charm of the original Dr. Seuss cartoon. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the green recluse with his three-sizes-too-small heart set on stealing the Christmas celebration of others. That’s great casting, but why is he settling for his Doctor Strange-style American voice? The man has such a natural, rich, velvety voice. Another miscue is the fact that this Grinch isn’t really feared by the people of Whoville. He lives just outside of ton and isn’t really that mean. He’s less a villain and more just a grumpy sad guy who has to over explain everything for the audience to understand (“I thought stealing Christmas would make me feel better, but really I was running from myself…”). This movie is brightly colored and nicely animated but it’s strictly just for little kids. The lessons are pretty simplistic. The characters are mostly annoying, precocious, or mute. The humor is mostly slapstick. There is nothing to engage bigger thinkers. This Grinch movie actually made me start re-evaluating the 2000 Ron Howard version, which at least tried something and had an enjoyably hammy Jim Carrey performance with some creepy good makeup prosthetics, and I didn’t even like that movie. The new animated Grinch film is inoffensively lackluster. At best it’s a disposable 90 minutes to distract easily distractible children and give mom and dad time for a nap.
Nate’s Grade: C
Colorful, energetic, and with a nice message about conservation, The Lorax is an amusing film that is pleasant enough but with little else to recommend it. The visuals are terrific and the Dr. Suess-level of imagination is nicely incorporated in weird ways. The story is about a boy (voiced by Zac Efron) trying to impress a girl (Taylor Swift), but really it’s the story of the Once-ler (Ed Helms) and his destruction of the forest for the sake of making money. The Lorax (Danny DeVito) is an orange, mustachioed creature who “speaks for the trees,” and conflicts with the Once-ler. The framing devices of the young starlets feel unnecessary, and the movie descends into a series of wacky chase scenes. The humor stays around family-friendly slapstick and a few knowing winks for the adults. The songs are amiable and witty but fairly forgettable. I’m having a hard time even summoning a single melody hours after seeing the movie. The rest of the movie is kind of the same way. It’s pleasant and nice enough while watching, but afterwards it evaporates from your memory, leaving only the faint reminiscence of colorful imagery. It’s from the makers of Despicable Me but lacks that movie’s heart. The environmental message will drive some blowhards nuts, but the same activist message existed in Suess’ original book. Anyway, I think The Lorax is a bit too busy and yet simplistic to be anything other than a pleasant diversion. The story just can’t match the greatness of the animation.
Nate’s Grade: B-