The debut trailer for Illumination’s adaptation of The Grinch has debuted online, giving audiences a first look at the newest iteration of the classic Seuss story. The first look gives little in terms of plot details. Instead, it’s entirely focused on introducing its titular curmudgeon, who is voiced by nerd heartthrob Benedict Cumberbatch. And while the Sherlock star uses his gravely and honey voice to infuse a bit of menacing charm into the role, the trailer completely fails to capture what makes the Grinch such a compelling anti-hero.
The Grinch is, as the song goes, a mean one. For his redemption arc to work, he has to start out as someone truly despicable. But in the trailer, he feels more like a mild grouch. When he is awoken by an alarm clock playing “Happy” by Pharrell, he doesn’t lose his shit or vow revenge on the world for forcing him to endure manufactured enthusiasm so early in the day. He just tries to turn the alarm off. It may not be the most cheerful response in the world but it’s also a pretty understandable reaction. In fact, it feels like the way most people would respond to having to wake up to an impossibly catchy pop song.
After getting through his morning routine (which includes the bonkers revelation that the Grinch isn’t actually naked but is actually wearing green pants that look exactly like his fur), he wanders towards Whoville declaring his intention to “do mean things.” Except, the things he ends up doing aren’t really all that mean. He openly walks into the local grocery store and barely registers a response from the other shoppers while he knocks over a few items and steals a pickle from another shopper. Once again, nobody would argue these actions would earn The Grinch the title of Mr. Congeniality but still, he seems more like an impish prankster than a hate-fueled monster capable of stealing Christmas.
Obviously, turning a 69-page book into a full-length movie requires taking a lot of creative liberties but most of the choices made in this trailer are in direct contrast with what has allowed this classic Dr. Seuss story to stand the test of time. In the book and original movie, the Grinch is a mysterious outcast who has allowed his isolation and bitterness to literally shrink his heart. But in this new version, he co-exists with the Whos in relative peace and is little more than a mild nuisance to his fellow citizens of Whoville.
Hopefully, with more context, Cumberbatch’s Grinch will prove to be a worthy successor to the demented, angry Grinches that came before him. But for now, Illumination’s newest Grinch looks like nothing more than a watered down version of one of the most lovable a-holes in pop culture history. Take a look and let us know.