Hello everyone, and I’m back to talk about a dropped trailer to an upcoming movie I previously discussed concerning the outlook towards the film, and how that outlook has changed since then – The Grinch. In that post, I made the case that there can be hype for the movie by pointing out why the reasons to hate the film don’t have too much weight and why the reasons to hype the film do. Since then I’ve remained hopeful that the film would get a more positive outlook once the trailer dropped, and much to my delight, I was pretty happy to see that it did. Of course, anything can still happen, but right now, The Grinch is on a good track, considering. (And speaking of considering, Peter Rabbit didn’t do too bad critically either, whoops. That in and of itself suggests hope.)
And with that being said, let’s dissect what makes the trailer work!
The Winter Olympics Teaser Trailer
Interestingly enough, Illumination Entertainment decided to start the bulk of the marketing for the film by releasing a teaser trailer during the 2018 Winter Olympics that wasn’t so much about the film itself as it was about the games. It’s a unique approach to the marketing, and a couple other movies did it as well such as Incredibles 2. Two factors may have played into this decision: the fact that the Grinch is a winter-themed character (via the Christmas themes) as well as to test the audience’s tolerance for the film by presenting an idea of what was to come in the trailer with a teaser.
It definitely worked, as audience reaction shifted closer to the “cautiously optimistic” side of the critical spectrum. Some people even completely liked it, which was a good sign for the movie. The cautious optimism may have been due to the teaser’s context, which still did not guarantee audiences would stay invested. After all, the film isn’t an adaptation of How the Grinch Stole the Winter Olympics!
Still, it was a pretty fun teaser. Although we don’t get to hear Benedict Cumberbatch’s vocal take on the character yet, the teaser knows that voice isn’t everything. We see the Grinch watching TV with Max in his typical mean mood at first, until it is revealed that he was watching, creatively enough, live-action footage of the games. We learn that the games actually make him smile as he imagines himself in the same spot as the figure skaters. It’s accompanied with Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, a modern song that, while bogging down the context a little bit, doesn’t do it any more so than similar films such as The Peanuts Movie. It also starts to drive home Chris Meledandri’s comments about The Grinch being a modern take on the story. The dream sequence ends when Max licks his face, with the Grinch realizing his window blinds were open and hoping that no Whos noticed that maybe he had a heart after all.
Again, it’s a different context, but the underlying parts of the story are there: the Grinch’s meanness, the character’s potential for niceness and his initial refusal to accept that part of him. Who’s to say that something like this couldn’t have happened before the events of the original story? It’s clear that audiences agreed. And it gave the official trailer that much hope.
Official Film Synopsis
Before we get to the official trailer, in order to fully understand it we need to take a look at the official film synopsis, which was released the day before the trailer (and with it came a neat new poster below). It revealed a ton of new information about the movie, and offers plenty to dissect about the film thus far:
Academy Award® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to the infamous Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company. With a cave rigged with inventions and contraptions for his day-to-day needs, the Grinch only sees his neighbors in Who-ville when he runs out of food.
Each year at Christmas they disrupt his tranquil solitude with their increasingly bigger, brighter and louder celebrations. When the Whos declare they are going to make Christmas three times bigger this year, the Grinch realizes there is only one way for him to gain some peace and quiet: he must steal Christmas. To do so, he decides he will pose as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, even going so far as to trap a lackadaisical misfit reindeer to pull his sleigh.
Meanwhile, down in Who-ville, Cindy-Lou Who—a young girl overflowing with holiday cheer—plots with her gang of friends to trap Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas Eve rounds so that she can thank him for help for her overworked single mother. As Christmas approaches, however, her good-natured scheme threatens to collide with the Grinch’s more nefarious one. Will Cindy-Lou achieve her goal of finally meeting Santa Claus? Will the Grinch succeed in silencing the Whos’ holiday cheer once and for all?
For the most part the synopsis falls in line with the events of the original story, with some notable exceptions. The Grinch never visited Whoville before stealing Christmas, though it was also never stated how he got his essentials. I’m also assuming he’ll fail to keep that reindeer before he resorts to using Max, which is evident in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. But the most striking part of the synopsis is the arc given to Cindy-Lou Who’s character, who now has more layers added to her character than just helping the Grinch rediscover his niceness. Her thanking Santa for helping her mother, while adding new things to the story like the live-action version, falls in line with the modernizing of the story and Meledandri’s comments about focusing on character development. Like how the insight into the Grinch’s past is set to explore how the Grinch became mean, this insight into Cindy-Lou Who’s own life looks to explore why she’s kind, and whether or not that matters to the Grinch.
Admittedly though, “trapping” Santa seems more like something the Grinch would do than Cindy-Lou Who, but there’s a chance that the way it was worded in the synopsis wasn’t intentional. Sure, she’s going to trap Santa Claus, but the context behind trapping Santa – an important technique in storytelling – can make it come off differently. It’s not that Cindy Lou-Who can’t trap Santa, but it can’t look as if she was trying to do it in a cruel way.
The official trailer would undoubtedly show much of the information presented in the synopsis, but exactly how much of it would be presented would be interesting. At that point, any outcome could have resulted from the trailer.
The Official Trailer
And as expected, the official trailer delivered. We open to a
Minion dramatic zoom in to the Grinch’s quarters, giving us a swanky introduction to the character as he appears in the actual movie rather than just starting it with him appearing right away. In bed, he is woken up to his clock that plays Pharrell Williams’s “Happy”, and while it is again a modern song, the song itself has a context that works. The Grinch doesn’t realize it here, but it and many other things that are sure to happen throughout the movie are telling him one simple thing: to be happy. He tries to stop the clock by throwing things at it, but fails at first until it falls down into the abyss of his cave. He thinks he’s won…until it plays again. That’s when we first hear Cumberbatch’s voice acting chops as the Grinch screams to Max for help.
Then a remix of more familiar music begins to play – the iconic song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” that has become synonymous with the character (and really just had to be in this movie, or oh boy). Rather than the deep bass voice used in the original, a more hoarse and raspy voice is used. It works just as well to evoke the same feelings of displeasure and discontentment that the voice uses to match the lyrics in the song. This successfully pays homage to an original idea while not directly copying it or disserving it.
As Max helps the Grinch get ready for his day (including giving him some pretty mean-looking hot cocoa), a humorous new take on the Grinch’s pre-Santa outfit look reveals that he has underwear and clothes after all. And even with the typically homogenous wardrobe that many cartoon characters have, each outfit is given some pretty mean adjectives for names.
The Grinch then walks into Whoville declaring to Max that they would “do mean things and do them in style”. As the synopsis promised, he did only go down there for food, deciding to make the best of it in only the ways he knows worst.
After menacing Whos at the supermarket, he walks off in delight when he is socked by newly installed Christmas inflatables, which I find interesting. Aside from setting the stage for the Grinch’s plan, it also references the Grinch’s opposition to the commercialization of Christmas, even though Meledandri stated that character development would be the focus instead. This suggests that these themes are not being ignored completely, which is important as the commercialization of Christmas was still a critical theme of the original story.
Audience reaction was pretty much the same as the Winter Olympics teaser, though there were more pre-trailer comments, which was pretty disheartening to see. The general perception seemed to be that there was nothing terrible about the movie, though nothing great either. I’d say that’s pretty fair, but there’s one important thing to consider: there are still key things we haven’t seen. I find it interesting how we didn’t hear Cumberbatch’s voice in the Winter Olympics teaser, nor have we yet seen the Grinch in his Santa outfit, Cindy Lou-Who or the young Grinch, which was shown on one of the movie posters. There is still a lot to reveal, and I’m confident that this movie could only go up from here on in.
In other news, I now have a concrete answer as to why they’re rebooting How the Grinch Stole Christmas! before The Cat in the Hat. It turned out that not long after I wrote my previous post about The Grinch did Dr. Seuss Enterprises strike a deal with Warner Bros. to make films based on Dr. Seuss properties over there instead, of which the first project will be the Cat in the Hat film. This makes The Grinch the last Illumination Dr. Seuss film, and given Universal’s live action iterations, The Lorax, the somewhat negative press surrounding The Grinch, and the fact that the Green Eggs and Ham television series for Netflix is already being produced at Warner Bros., Audrey Geisel must’ve seen a ripe opportunity and decided to not take any chances with Universal anymore. It’s probably for the best, especially if The Grinch…well, you know. Regardless of The Grinch‘s outcome, though, at least the future will remain bright for the World of Dr. Seuss, and I’m glad to see that.
Keep it up, Audrey. 😉