REVIEW: ‘The Grinch’ is funny, wonderful … and full of great lessons for kids
November 9th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments
He hates snowmen. He despises upbeat music. He even wears “Mold Spice” body spray. And the welcome mat outside his home? It reads, “Seriously, Go Away!”
He is the infamous Mr. Grinch -- the green creature who loathes anything filled with joy and who lives in a mountaintop abode overlooking the happy-go-lucky people of Whoville.
If Mr. Grinch had his way, he would never encounter the citizens of this lovely village. But he has no choice, as Whoville is home to the region’s only grocery store, and he’s running low on food.
Thus, Mr. Grinch descends the mountain during one cold December day to purchase a few provisions he hopes will last him until Spring. While there, he sees everything he detests: Christmas carolers, colorful lights and laughing children. He also bumps into a friendly citizen who tells him that Whoville’s mayor wants this year’s Christmas to be three times bigger than it’s ever been.
Once back at his home, Mr. Grinch decides he’s had enough of happiness, and thus begins plotting to stop Whoville’s Christmas celebration. He will dress like Santa, sneak into the city on Christmas eve, and take everything related to the holiday, including the lights, decorations and gifts.
“I’m going to steal their Christmas,” he tells his trusty dog, Max.
Will his plan work?
The animated movie The Grinch (PG) opens in theaters this weekend, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange) as Mr. Grinch, actor and composer Pharrell Williams as the narrator, Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) as Donna Who, and Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman) as Cindy Lou Who.
It is based on the children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas by author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel and is the second big-screen adaptation of the story, following the 2000 live-action movie starring Jim Carrey.
The newest film largely follows the book and tells how Cindy Lou Who and the citizens of Whoville helped change Mr. Grinch’s outlook on life. Indeed, his heart grows three sizes at the end of the movie. The film also fills in the gaps by answering a few questions not addressed in the Dr. Seuss book, such as: Why was Mr. Grinch’s heart too small in the first place?
The Grinch is a funny and charming family-friendly movie that is full of the same positive lessons seen in the book. It also includes a few Christ-centric Christmas songs that take center stage. Minus a couple of moments of rude humor, it could be rated G.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal. The Grinch destroys a boy’s snowman, and then throws a snowball at him. Slapstick humor is used occasionally; the Grinch gets accidentally slingshot from his mountaintop perch into a huge tree. Later, he is sledding down a hill when he runs head-first into a tree.
None. We see the Grinch getting ready in the morning in his underwear. He exercises in a speedo-like outfit. A boy’s Santa-like clothes are ripped off by a robotic contraption; he covers himself with a cookie. (This likely is what prevented the movie from being rated G.)
None. One “geez” and one or two variations of “stupid.”
Other Positive Elements
Donna Who is a hard-working single mom who works all night and then takes care of her children during the day. As Cindy Lou Who says, it’s “not fair.” Cindy Lou Who decides to ask Santa to help make her mom happy. In fact, it’s her only request to him.
The song God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is sung by carolers, and we hear several times the lyric “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day.” Later, a family sings Silent Night as they gather in their home.
For the most part, children in the movie obey their parents.
The Grinch is full of positive message, led by Cindy Lou’s selflessness and Whoville’s display of joy despite their gifts and decorations being stolen. When you combine those messages, you get a powerful refutation of our society’s selfish and materialistic view of Christmas. (“He didn’t steal Christmas. He just stole stuff. … Christmas is in here,” Donna Who says, pointing to her heart.) Even though we never hear that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” it’s nevertheless great fodder for a post-movie discussion with the family.
The movie also has a loud message about caring for others and reaching out to people in need. The Grinch hates Christmas because he is lonely. He’s lonely because he grew up an orphan and never received love (or gifts) at Christmas. He subsequently turned bitter.
I grew up reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I know the story by heart. Yet as I sat in the theater and watched the big-screen adaptation, I began viewing it as a modern-day parable -- that is, a story with a moral lesson. The lesson(s): Stop worrying about the “stuff” that too often distracts us. Live an unselfish life. Care for those who are lonely and in need.
How many people around us are like the Grinch? They’re scarred and hurting due to something in their past. They need love. They need Jesus.
True, The Grinch isn’t a Christian story in the traditional sense, but its positive themes have their basis in Scripture.
Jesus said it best: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
What I Liked
The animation. The humor. The script. It’s close to being a perfect children’s film.
What I Didn’t Like
The potty humor isn’t over the top, but why include it? This movie was so close to gaining a “G” rating.
- Why was the Grinch the way he was? What caused him to change from his evil ways?
- Do you know someone who is lonely? How could you help bring him/her joy?
- What does the movie teach us about Christmas gifts and decorations? Are they bad?
- What can you do to keep the focus on Christ this Christmas?
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG for brief rude humor.