Film review: The Grinch will jingle the bells of families in the run-up to Christmas

Although it's not entirely clear what Benedict Cumberbatch is doing in the title role, the charming new movie adaptation of Dr Seuss's seasonal fable The Grinch ought to jingle your family's bells in the run-up to Christmas, writes Damon Smith

The Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch
The Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch

A GOOD heart – even one that is two sizes too small – isn't hard to find in the charming computer-animated retelling of Dr Seuss's seasonal fable from the makers of Despicable Me and The Secret Life Of Pets.

Co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier, The Grinch is an early Christmas present crammed to bursting with cute critters, slapstick and bountiful community spirit.

The film screens with a delightful Minions animated short entitled Yellow Is The New Black, which follows two goggle-eyed hench-creatures as they become bystanders to a hare-brained jailbreak.

If the gobbledegook-spouting duo don't steal the hearts of young audiences with their antics, the excitable reindeer and eager-to-please dog which bound through the snow-laden frames of The Grinch will.

A trim running time and crisp visuals decked in retina-searing colours of the season should jingle the bells of families looking to sweeten the bitter taste left by The Nutcracker And The Four Realms.

Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow's script retains some of Dr Seuss's rhyming couplets word for word in the dramatic set-up and sentimentality-drizzled resolution but deviates noticeably in a slickly executed yet saccharine mid-section, which now boasts a screaming goat and an excitable reindeer with a penchant for aerosol whipped cream.

The mayor of the faraway town of Whoville (voiced by Angela Lansbury) decrees that this year's Christmas celebrations should be three times grander than usual. Everyone rejoices except for The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch), who lives in a cave overlooking the town with his trusty pooch Max.

The Grinch despises the festive season as a result of childhood trauma. The green-furred curmudgeon resolves to poison Whoville's holiday cheer by dressing as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and stealing the town's decorations, trees and presents.

Max will be a wagging accomplice and an overweight reindeer called Fred will pull the sleigh.

"Santa had eight – he looks like he ate the other seven," quips the verdant antihero.

Meanwhile, little Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) hatches a plan to capture Santa Claus so she can ask the man in red to grant her Christmas wish: to lighten the load of her overworked single mother, Donna (Rashida Jones).

Narrated by Pharrell Williams, The Grinch is engineered to the same winning formula as other animations in the Illumination stable.

Visual gags are largely restricted to pungent puns on brand names: the eponymous anti-hero douses himself in Mold Spice.

Casting Cumberbatch in the title role, then asking him to adopt an American accent, is nonsensical but the London-born actor teases the dual aspects of his character's gnarled personality.

Danny Elfman's jaunty score plucks strings of nostalgia for The Nightmare Before Christmas, which has considerably more lip-smacking, mean-spirited fun with Yuletide and its trimmings.

THE GRINCH (U, 90 mins). Animation/Comedy/Drama/Action. Featuring the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Cameron Seely, Kenan Thompson, Angela Lansbury. Directors: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier

RATING: 7/10

Released: November 9 (UK & Ireland)