Last year, Illumination Entertainment announced that a brand new, CG adaptation of Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas was in the works for the end of 2017. Anyone who knows me will know that The Grinch is something I absolutely love, which is why this announcement left me both excited and anxious – I’m always happy to see the character and the story getting some more love, but could a new film really live up to my memories of the Jim Carrey and Boris Karloff originals? A lot of it, of course, would come down to who would be playing the title role…
Well, guess what, it’s now official: Benedict Cumberbatch is The Grinch. Suffering snorkel blatz!
Am I happy? You bet I’m happy! One of my major fears about this upcoming remake was that the studio would opt for some hip and happening star of the moment, someone whose name would just be there to sell cinema tickets rather than bring any actual weight to the performance (a trend which animated films often fall prey to – Katy Perry and Rihanna come to mind as recent examples). And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch is a star of the moment, currently riding his tidal wave of success in Sherlock Series 4 and Doctor Strange, and his name will sell cinema tickets by the bucketload because he’s a huge, huge name in film and television. But he’s totally earned that level of stardom, having shot to fame in the last few years from a relative unknown to one of Britain’s most talented exports.
So, let’s look at the reasons why Cumberbatch has the potential to make an excellent Grinch. For starters, he’s got the voice. That deep, menacing voice that he can lace with a hint of dark humour and madness, which is totally what The Grinch is about. He’s also got some pedigree experience in playing animated characters – his performance as Smaug in The Hobbit films was unquestionably the best thing about them. Even without physically being on screen with all his grand acting abilities, he’s able to bring gravitas to his work, and knowing that he’s the kind of guy who will take a famous role like The Grinch seriously makes me feel so much less worried about the film’s prospects. Plus, y’know, there’s just something so exciting about having a British Grinch for a change, a simple little fact like that somehow brings the project that little bit closer to home.
However, the big question still remains – will he be better than the other Grinches? Obviously it’s too early to say, but he’s definitely up against some stiff competition. His most direct point of comparison will surely come from Boris Karloff, who voiced the green grump in the original 1966 animation, and in a sense, the two actors are very similar – both esteemed in their work, and both able to bring strong, meaningful performances to the character. Karloff will always be the one and only Grinch for many fans, and arguably the film he stars in is the best adaptation of Seuss’ book to date… it’ll be interesting to see how the remake stacks up. In 2017, it’ll be Sherlock Holmes versus Frankenstein’s Monster!
What I’ll personally be comparing Cumberbatch to though is Jim Carrey’s performance in the 2000 live-action film, The Grinch (yeah, yeah, I know it’s called How The Grinch Stole Christmas in the US, but it was always just The Grinch over here!). For me, the 2000 flick is the definitive adaptation – call it nostalgia, call it rose-tinted glasses, but I just bloody love it. I must have seen at least a handful of times at the cinema and it’s my traditional Christmas watch every time December rolls around. Sure, there were some definite flaws with how the basic story was padded out to fill a 90 minute movie, but Carrey as The Grinch himself was electric, full of wit and bite. It’s no wonder that he was the studio’s first choice for the role, with his amazing elastic face fitting perfectly for The Grinch’s cartoonish expressions.
On paper, I’m expecting Cumberbatch to give a more grounded and more “faithful” performance to Seuss’ book – but in a way, I love how goofy and unhinged Carrey’s version was, so it’s going to take a lot to top it in my eyes. Time will tell, and I’m very intrigued to see how the 2017 film fleshes out the character – and indeed the story.
We’ll have to wait until next Christmas to get a definitive answer, but even if the unthinkable happens and Cumberbatch dethrones Carrey as my favourite, I will always have respect for him being the only person brave enough to actually play the character in real life. Having to wear all that make-up sounded pretty horrific… but it was totally worth it in the end!