Review: ‘Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch,’ Doesn’t meet magic of original

This image released by Universal Pictures shows the characters Bricklebaum, voiced by Kenan Thompson, left, and Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, in a scene from "The Grinch." (Universal Pictures via AP)
By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media (TNS)

Parents need to know that “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinc” is an animated adaptation of the classic holiday story, featuring the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch as the legendary Christmas curmudgeon. The movie is appropriate for most younger viewers, with many more scenes of physical comedy and pratfalls than genuine peril (though there is a scene in which it looks like the Grinch will fall over a mountain — but of course is saved). Expect lots of falls from heights, catapulting through the air, speeding on sleds, etc. The Grinch ends up in his underwear in a brief scene, and a naked Who is seen behind a cookie that’s strategically placed to obscure anything inappropriate. Like Seuss’ original, this is a story about kindness, love, and generosity being the true meaning of Christmas.


Narrated by Pharrell Williams, “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” elaborates on Dr. Seuss’ classic book about the Christmas-hating Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who lives above the merry town of Whoville. Down below, the mayor of Whoville (Angela Lansbury) has deemed that Christmas is going to be three times big as in previous years. So the Grinch decides he’s going to ruin everyone’s holiday by pretending to be Santa and stealing the entire town’s presents and decorations. But adorable little Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely), whose mother, Donna Lou (Rashida Jones), is a hard-working single mom, has a plan of her own: trap Santa and ask him for a very special gift.


This adaptation is bright, colorful, and occasionally funny, but it doesn’t come close to matching the effectiveness of the short-and-sweet original. While Cumberbatch’s voice isn’t as resonantly deep as Boris Karloff’s, his Grinch is believably grumpy, angry, and resentful of Whoville’s need for a ginormous Christmas celebration. The Grinch’s lovably loyal dog, Max, makes the green meanie a bit more sympathetic, as does the sad backstory that explains his motivations for hating the holiday.

But this isn’t only the Grinch’s story. It’s also Cindy Lou’s, as she attempts to convince Santa to grant her selfless wish. To accomplish her goal, there’s a subplot involving a group of her friends, a kid-led caper that should appeal to younger audiences. Jones is well-cast as a loving mom, and Kenan Thompson adds comic relief as a Whoville resident who misguidedly believes that the Grinch is his pal. For its enduring messages about kindness and love, it’s hard to find fault in The Grinch, but it’s unlikely to surpass Chuck Jones’ famous animated special on the “holiday classics” list.


  • Recommended for ages 6 and older
  • Quality: 3 out of 5
  • Educational value: 1 out of 5
  • Positive messages: 4 out of 5
  • Positive role models: 4 out of 5
  • Violence and scariness: 3 out of 5
  • Sexy stuff: 1 out of 5
  • Language: 1 out of 5
  • Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5
  • Consumerism: 1 out of 5


  • In theaters: November 9, 2018
  • Directors: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Run time: 90 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG