What You Don’t Need Vs. What You Didn’t Know You Wanted
It’s no secret that we’re oversaturated with celebrity-voiced 3-D animated family affairs that boast thinly veiled mature humor aimed at audiences of all ages. And the reason for that deluge is that for every ten instances of Ferdinand or The Emoji Movie we can count on a Coco or a The LEGO Movie to bring up the average, and we’re sort of fine with that proportion.
The mainstream animation factory has functioned this way since the first Toy Story, but it’s been easy enough for discerning audiences to distinguish between the likely winners and the Croods of the world. Enter The Grinch and Ralph Breaks the Internet.
THE GRINCH ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier
Written by: Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow
Voiced by: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Cameron Seely, and Pharrell Williams
Running time: 86 min.
On their faces they would both seem like remakes/sequels that no one really expected or asked for. The original How the Grinch Stole Christmas(1966) is an untouchable classic that manages to distill both the most heartwarming character arc and the most devastating diss track into 26 minutes. It certainly doesn’t need to be expanded with a full 45-minute backstory explaining the ethos of the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) leading up to the famous pilfering of a holiday.
Yet it’s got enough of a pedigree and enough nostalgic cred from Dr. Seuss to warrant curiosity. It’s a trick, not unlike a hairy green man distracting you with bamboozlers while he ransacks your materialistic Christmas. You’re a stretched one, Mr. Grinch. You’ve got not enough to do. You make trips to grocery stores and exercise in booty shorts, MR. GRI-INCH!
Ralph, on the other hand, is building on the over-performing success of Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph (2012). And where it could’ve been like “Anyway, here’s Wonderwall” and just thrown some new videogame references in our faces, it chooses to open up its world and take on modern Internet consumption, toxic friendships, and The Mouse’s own historical lack of creativity with Disney princesses. What?! Give me THAT!
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET ★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Directed by: Phil Johnston and Rich Moore
Written by: Phil Johnston and Pamela Ribon
Voiced by: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, Taraji P. Henson, and Jack McBrayer
Running time: 112 min.
While it may lay it on pretty thick at times for adult audiences with lessons about insecurity and possessiveness, I’m fine with that if it means children taking some of the ideas to heart. It helps that there is no step down in quality of humor and visuals in this sequel.
So, this holiday season you have a choice between a film that wants to say the same thing its source material said in 1966, but I guess bigger, longer, and louder, or one that has a more relevant and crucial message for our times. Kids won’t be able to tell the difference, so the choice is yours.