You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch, But Why Does Everybody Seem Meaner?

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Okay, I think that now is a pretty good time to talk about the general consensus regarding this year’s upcoming remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, simply titled The Grinch. And it’s, well…interesting, to say the least. From the looks of things, it appears that everyone is pretty divided on it, with perhaps a little more hate on the film than hype. And as the lover of children’s literature that I am, I’m kind of saddened to see this.

I’ve really thought about the reasons for this attitude towards the film, and extensively evaluated whether or not its worth it. And I came to the conclusion that these reasons do make sense for the most part (I even found more reasons to hate it than to hype it). However, I noticed that the reasons to hate the film appear to be more rooted in history and treading with caution in general when it comes to upcoming films that can be connected to that history. Meanwhile, the reasons to hype the film are more directly rooted in the production of the film itself, giving more justification to the hype than the hate.

With that being said, let’s get to what I mean!

Hate Reason #1: The Idea of a Reboot to Start With

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Hey, for what’s it’s worth, at least the marketing campaign is pretty impressive.

Okay, let’s get to the most basic part of this: the age of the reboot. Not just relating to this movie, but the idea of a reboot in general seems to be something of a frowned upon act. And it can be, but this only ends up being the case if two factors come into play:

  • The reboot is being released about less than a decade apart from the original
  • The film ends up not being good

It’s not that reboots can’t be a thing, especially if the original film was not good (perhaps you can even reboot sooner in that case). Reboots help to reintroduce characters and franchises known from a prior generation to a new generation, and ensures that these intellectual properties stay alive in the popular culture. However, if you release a reboot too soon, and if you care more about how much money you’re going to get than you care about giving a quality product that will convince those who you want the money from to give it to you, then don’t try it at all.

It should be noted though, that no matter what the circumstances of any film, it doesn’t matter if the film actually ends up being good. Yes, this even applies to reboots released too soon; Spider-Man: Homecoming is a good example of this. It also applies to reboots of films that were already good; Kong: Skull Island comes to mind. Granted, it’s been 18 years since the Grinch’s last cinematic outing, so The Grinch at least has the former in its favor. As for the latter, well, that’s to be explained below.

Hate Reason #2: The Original How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Was a Genuinely Good Film

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Hey, I’d just like to make it clear that I’m not hating on the original film. I think it’s an okay film myself, but I think that perhaps even those who like the film can agree that its far from perfect. There’s no denying that Jim Carrey gave it all he got, it was just some of the work he was given that hindered the film from perfection. There are many other reasons for the imperfections, but an important one is the characterization of the Grinch, of which Awful Movies Wiki sums it up perfectly (just so you know, I was a little surprised they made an article for this movie):

The Grinch’s personality is a lot different than his book and animated counterpart. In both the original book and animated special, he was calm, selfish, manipulative, cunning, cruel, hateful, uncaring, heartless, abusive towards his dog, Max and what makes him more evil is that he has no sense of humor whatsoever, making him one of the darkest villains in the entire Dr. Seuss series. In the film however, he’s loud, obnoxious, sadistic, malevolent, psychotic, maniacal and has a lot of comedic added to him, making him very out of place, although the Grinch from both the book and animated film does some points of humor, those were very few and far between.

So it’s not like there isn’t stuff to fix, and we shouldn’t pretend there isn’t. I’m actually looking forward to seeing The Grinch because of this, because when it was first announced I genuinely believed that this was the film’s purpose: to do more of what worked in the original film and less of what didn’t. I also believe that this isn’t about “disserving” or “fixing” the original 1966 cartoon; this film is only concerning the live-action version. Because who would ever think of challenging such a classic?

Hate Reason #3: The Cat in The Hat

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GYAHHHH!!!!!!!

Look, I get it. I get that The Cat in The Hat may very well be the worst children’s book film adaptation of all time. I get that it was not so much a movie as it was a deliberate insult to Dr. Seuss, arguably the most iconic children’s picture book author of all time, and his most iconic character, and everything that Theodore Geisel ever believed in and stood up for. I get that the movie was the reason why Audrey Geisel forbade any future live-action adaptations of her husband’s works, and given the live-action potential of Seuss’s works that How the Grinch Stole Christmas! showed, it was a total shame, becoming one of the saddest stories in the history of Hollywood.

But that was a long time ago. For farther proof, none of the team behind The Cat in The Hat is even attached to The Grinch. Though, there is one thing about this reason that is worth pointing out that I do agree with: Why are they remaking How the Grinch Stole Christmas! before The Cat in the Hat, even though The Cat in the Hat was the worse film? I actually don’t have a concrete answer for this, but if I had to guess, I’d imagine that since Audrey Geisel is being executive producer on The Cat in the Hat remake, she wants to ensure that particular film is being done right, which was the reason for eternally animating Seuss’s work in the first place. So it’s naturally taking longer to produce than The Grinch and they probably want to get repairing the mistakes made in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! over with and really win the fans over before The Cat in the Hat remake is released.

Hate Reason #4: The Emoji Movie?

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DOUBLE GYAH!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, I’m sorry, but this one is ridiculous. We seriously need to let this movie go. I get it, it gives The Cat in the Hat a run for its money. I get that Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated Popeye film was ditched for this. I get that it can be appropriately retitled The Fall of Sony: The Movie (okay, maybe I’d actually watch that over this). But to immediately start saying that The Grinch is “the next Emoji Moviemonths before a trailer even comes out is far from a little harsh. It shows that the nuclear fallout of Emoji Movie-hate still lingers in the air months after its release, to the point that we’ve largely lost faith in a majority of upcoming animated movies with little to no precedent for critical success.

But to calm you down:

  • Like The Cat in the Hat, none of the team behind The Emoji Movie is even attached to The Grinch.
  • It’s not even the same studio (Universal is making The Grinch)
  • It’s clear they have a far more concrete vision that is appropriate for a film than The Emoji Movie, which I’ll discuss later.

If anything, a film that should be more appropriately judged this way at this time is Peter Rabbit, of which a) the trailer came out and provides far greater evidence of little promise than The Grinch does right now, and b) professional critic James Baldock actually is comparing it to The Emoji Movie based on what he saw in the trailer, which I have here below with my points highlighted:

I watch a lot of YouTube content, and very rarely does my jaw drop. But that’s just what happened today when I sat through the trailer for the new Peter Rabbit film, which – if the movie lives up to its two-minute preview – is set to be the greatest abomination to grace the big screen since The Emoji Movie.

It’s okay to judge a film, obviously, but it’s important to judge a film accordingly to what is presented to us at the time. Everything about the film must be discerned first before an opinion can be made. (And the way Peter Rabbit is turning out is, by the way, a shame.)

Hate Reason #5: The Lorax

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Okay, I put this one among the last hate reasons for a reason: because it transitions to the reasons why there can be hype for this movie, of which I will explain. The Lorax is actually the most sensible reason to not be very optimistic about The Grinch. This is because unlike the other films I mentioned, some of the people behind The Grinch were actually also sadly behind The Lorax. Director Yarrow Cheney was a production designer on that film (a position not relating to the story, but still), and producer Chris Meledandri also produced that film. Even with the transition to animation that Audrey Geisel wanted, The Lorax botched the book’s original message. Which is a shame, because I can’t help but to feel that after Horton Hears a Who!, The Lorax should’ve been just as good. It wasn’t a terrible movie, but it doesn’t look good coming off of Horton, and given that it was the last Seuss film adaptation before The Grinch, it makes total sense to be concerned in this respect.

However, the good news is that the message of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is far less complex and easier to tell than The Lorax. Nonetheless, I’ll just go straight to the next hate reason to get to my point.

Hate Reason #6: Producer Chris Meledandri Has Something of a Mixed Track Record in General

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Okay, so Chris Meledandri is one of those guys in Hollywood: the writers who simply may or may not make a good movie. If we look at his track record, he hasn’t produced anything particularly terrible, except perhaps Hop, but quite a few of his films have received mixed reception aside from The Lorax: Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Minions and Despicable Me 3.

However…

Hype Reason #1: Meledandri Has Nonetheless Proven He Can Make a Critical Hit

…We must also consider Meledandri’s critical successes and his notable impact on Hollywood: Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, The Secret Life of Pets, Sing, and of course…

Hype Reason #2: Horton Hears a Who!

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That’s right. Now, there are some things to consider: Meledandri has a roughly equal number of executive producer and producer credits on his films. In case you don’t know, executive producers only have partial say in a film’s production, while producers are one of the leading people behind production. Sadly, Meledandri notably executive produced Horton Hears a Who! and produced The Lorax, which isn’t too promising. But then there’s this…

Hype Reason #3: Meledandri Clearly Has a Promising Vision for The Film

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I came across an article on Movieweb.com that does suggest a positive outcome for The Grinch. Author Bradford Alan Orange stated that a clip of footage from the film was shown at CinemaCon in 2016 to generate hype, adding that those who saw the footage found it to be “quite spectacular”. What’s more, he also posted a comment from Meledandri himself, who offers an interesting insight on his approach to the film that I believe those who are hating on the film are unaware of:

What we’ve set out to do with this telling of the Grinch is make it both modern and traditional at the same time. When I say that I mean from a traditional standpoint, we’ve really tried to go back to what we perceive as the essence of what Ted Geisel was communicating. What I love about his work is that at the center of it, of all of his stories, are very, very simple and universal ideas. The last telling of the Grinch focused a little bit more on sort of the commercialization of Christmas and how the commercialization of Christmas can lead us down the wrong path. For me, in reading what Geisel wrote, I view it more from a character perspective. I think that the essence of this film is the notion of this cynicism comedically expressed in the Grinch and this absolute innocence represented in Cindy Lou, on a collision course with one another through the course of this movie. It’s the simple question of whether or not innocence can transform cynicism. The beauty of that simplicity for me is what’s at the heart of the movie. In the experience of the movie I love the sort of wicked comedic aspect of this character the Grinch and I think that what you’ll see is from the very, very early animation tests, very raw, you’ll see that there’s an undeniable appeal in the character in spite of that kind of, sort of wicked persona, and I find that very, very, appealing and attractive. Our choice in directors on one hand, Yarrow Cheney, who’s come up through our process of having been a production designer and now co-director and directed one of the sweetest shorts we ever made, called Puppy, combined with Pete Candeland who is really best known for his work co-directing all the animated Gorillaz videos. The modern and the traditional coming together. And I think our choice in voice will also immediately suggest the distinction of the film.

It appears that Meledandri is trying to make The Grinch an insightful commentary on the battle between innocence and cynicism. Farther suggesting this is the film’s second poster which features a young Grinch, which may be off-putting at first. That is until you put these comments and that poster together, and come to the conclusion that Meledandri is looking to fill up the two-hour runtime with a backstory detailing exactly how the Grinch became mean. This farther elaborates on the themes of innocence vs. cynicism, specifically how innocence can turn into cynicism before innocence from an outside entity can reverse it back. Unlike the live-action film, it’s not adding to a simple redemption story by adding anything new to it. It’s just simply adding layers to what was originally there.

Hey, if The Grinch does end up being bad for whatever reasons, I’ll let you say that you told me so. Bad films deserve their hate just as good films deserve their love. But even if it’s not that obvious from the surface, with a proper assessment of everything presented, upcoming films that seem good also deserve a chance at optimism, just as upcoming films that seem bad mostly deserve their pessimism. It’s only fair, and until the trailer comes out, this should be the mindset we should have about the film.

Although, now that it’s 2018, I wonder where Ellen DeGeneres’s Green Eggs and Ham television series for Netflix is at. 🙂

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