The heartwarming aspects have to work pretty hard to knife through the clutter, and the uplifting ending — while still good — has been somewhat blunted in pursuit of a slightly more expansive message. Movie length also robs the Seuss-ian dialogue of some of its poetry, even with a Pharrell Williams narration that draws heavily on the script from the original production.
Finally, there’s Cumberbatch’s voice work, which involves adopting a slightly nasal twang that, frankly, won’t make anybody forget Boris Karloff, and really makes one yearn to hear the actor’s resonant baritone, British accent and all.
The underlying bones of “The Grinch” are so solid the movie can’t help but be moderately pleasing. But to borrow from another holiday special, the commercial imperative to adorn the story with shiny baubles to suit the frenetic demands of modern animation is a bit like the little Christmas tree that Charlie Brown brings home to Linus and the gang. Yes, it’s nice to dress it up a bit, but one bulb too many can potentially topple the whole thing.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” premieres Nov. 9 in the U.S. It’s rated PG.