The Grinch Parent Guide
Parents looking for a new family Christmas tradition could do worse than this cheerful, upbeat movie about caring for others and reaching out to the lost and lonely.
Parent Movie Review
Remaking a beloved classic is always a risky proposition. The 1966 television adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ timeless “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” has been an annual seasonal tradition for generations of children. With its faithful retelling of the original story, whimsical mid-century aesthetic, unforgettable soundtrack, and flawless character animation (who can forget the Grinch’s evil grin?), it’s hard to beat. The live action remake in 2000 certainly failed to do so. Its crude humor and Jim Carey’s creepy make up and prosthetics detracted from the charm of the story. The big question in 2018 is: Does this year’s animated version live up to the original TV special? The answer is: Not quite, but it comes very, very close.
Our story begins with the green, grumpy Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) holed up in his mountain lair, loathing Christmas and hating the residents of nearby Whoville. Nursing his resentments, the crotchety curmudgeon decides that if he can’t enjoy Christmas, no one will so he dreams up an audacious plan to steal Christmas from every single Who. At the same time, young Cindy Lou Who (who is far more than two and is voiced by Cameron Seely) is hatching a plot to trap Santa so she can ask him to help her hard-working, selfless single mother (voiced by Rashida Jones). Viewers will not be startled when their plans intersect in a not-too-surprising way.
The plot differs from the book at a few points but holds few surprises for older viewers. It also feels bloated, a natural result of stretching a children’s book to feature film length. And the soundtrack is a disappointment, although to be fair, I am so wedded to the original music and narration by Boris Karloff and Thurl Ravenscroft that I’m not sure I could like any other. That being said, this film shines in its visuals and animation. The sets are all beautifully rendered – from the Grinch’s lonely home to his friend’s over-decorated house, to the town of Whoville, which is a bright, festive, child’s fantasy – so popping with colorful decorations that it looks good enough to eat. The animation is also superior, with the Grinch’s fur depicted in exacting detail: you can see individual hairs blowing in the wind. The animators have managed to project the Grinch’s personality, even adding a touch of vulnerability and self-doubt that was missing in previous versions. Max the dog and Fred the reindeer also have distinct personalities - a real achievement for these non-verbal characters
Parents looking for a new family Christmas tradition could do worse than this cheerful, upbeat movie. It has very few content issues aside from slapstick violence which will only scare the most sensitive children. And it has wonderful messages about caring for others, treasuring family, reaching out to those who are alone, letting go of past hurts, changing for the better, and forgiving others. Parents will also appreciate the movie’s message about Christmas. When the Whos wake up on Christmas Day and discover that their gifts and trees are gone, Donna Lou Who reminds little Cindy Lou that gifts aren’t Christmas: Christmas is in your heart. And the Grinch, preparing to carve the roast beast at the festive dinner that evening, proposes a toast: “To kindness and love, the things we need most.” That’s a message we all need to hear. Every year.Directed by Peter Candeland, Yarrow Cheney. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Angela Lansbury, and Rashida Jones. Running time: 90 minutes. Theatrical release November 9, 2018. Updated February 7, 2019
Watch the trailer for The Grinch
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Grinch rated PG? The Grinch is rated PG by the MPAA for brief rude humor.
Violence: The movie contains some slapstick violence and mildly scary moments. The main character wrecks a child’s snowman and then throws a snowball at his head. He uses a wreath on a wire to toss a man in the air. A young girl accidentally lands on a character’s head when her sled goes out of control. A character is accidentally punched in the head by an inflatable decoration. A child falls down the stairs but is wearing so many coats she is well padded and unharmed. A character gets angry and throws things at his alarm clock. A character attempts to use a trebuchet to lob a giant snowball at a town; he is catapulted instead and lands inside a giant Christmas tree. A character tries to lasso a reindeer and gets dragged through the snow and smacked into a tree. The main character steals a sleigh from a friend’s rooftop decoration. The main character steals Christmas gifts and trees from everyone in town.
Sexual Content: There is brief, non-explicit discussion of reindeer mating habits in the context of trying to catch reindeer. A prank gone wrong leads to a boy’s clothes coming off: a strategically located cookie keeps things clean.
Profanity: None noted.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated February 7, 2019
The Grinch Parents' Guide
The Grinch hates Christmas because it reminds him of his childhood when nobody cared about him and he didn’t receive any Christmas gifts. Are there people in your community who are lost or alone at Christmas? What can you do to help? Are there charities in your area that help provide Christmas gifts and other support for people who are struggling?
Cindy Lou Who’s mother reminds her that things aren’t Christmas: Christmas is found in your heart. What can you do to focus less on presents and more on having the spirit of Christmas in your heart?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss remains a classic Christmas read for kids of all ages.
Another classic children’s story that can be enjoyed by everyone is A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M Schulz.
A story focused on giving, not getting, can be found in What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C McKissack and April Harrison.
Young children and early readers will enjoy Santa Bruce, a story of an unwitting Santa impostor. Bruce the bear isn’t pretending to be Santa, but everyone thinks he is, in this comical book by Ryan T Higgins.
Looking for a quiet story about helping others and having wishes come true? Try The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear. Beautifully illustrated in muted tones, this gentle story could be the perfect bedtime story in the hectic holiday season.
If you are looking for a story about the magic of reaching out to others at Christmas, try Susan Wojciechowski’s The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. In this story, a widow and her son connect with a lonely widower. Parents may want to keep tissues handy - this book will tug at your heart strings.
The most recent home video release of The Grinch movie is February 5, 2019. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
The classic original Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas remains an enchanting seasonal story for kids of all ages. The live action retelling is somewhat less satisfactory, but will still entertain kids.
If you are looking for another family film about the true meaning of Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol provides good messages about compassion and service along with a few scary scenes. Mickey’s Christmas Carol is an animated version of the same story which is both shorter and less frightening, making it suitable for young viewers.