You might remember Max from the original 1966 TV special, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He had the saddest puppy dog eyes ever drawn on an animated character. This poor dog didn’t want to help his master ruin Christmas… or even really be there at all. You can judge the character of a person (or furry, green Dr. Seuss creation) based on how he treats his pets. The Grinch doesn’t really interact with anyone else until he comes across Cindy Lou Who, so it was key that Dr. Seuss show everyone how dastardly the Grinch really was with his treatment of Max.
In the newest iteration of The Grinch — out this weekend — Max is no longer the unwilling sidekick, but a pretty happy canine companion. This is a great change that makes the Grinch more sympathetic, which is what this 2018 film is trying to do, and adds depth to both of those iconic characters.
Max still remains subservient to the Grinch. The Grinch rings the bell, signaling that Max’s duties have to begin. Max is required to bring him his morning coffee and help his master get ready. Think about a loyal, yet slightly sassy English butler’s relationship to his boss. That’s the best way to describe this relationship.
This dog also has his own agenda. He wants to ride in a car with his tongue out, like any good boy, and sleep at the foot of the Grinch’s bed instead of his dog bed. Max doesn’t talk like the dog from Up, but he communicates with the Grinch through facial expressions. He mirrors what most dog-human relationships are like, except that this dog can play chess. This dog even pouts when the Grinch has wronged him, and the Grinch has to apologize.
Sure, the Grinch is mischievous and grumpy, but he’s got this dog that he says sorry too, in the same way, that most people do. He can’t be that evil. He isn’t trying to make a coat out of him like Cruella De Vil was with the dalmatians.
The strange banter between the Grinch and Max makes the movie more enjoyable, and there’s an emotional payoff near the end of the film. There’s just something about a cute human-and-dog friendship that makes your heart grow three times in size.