But so far the feature film adaptation came closest to capturing his anarchic spirit was Ron Howard’s 2000 live action adaptation of his 1957 classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
Howard’s film wasn’t perfect, but he had a barn-storming Jim Carrey in the lead role. Here we have Benedict Cumberbatch voicing a more restrained version of the hairy grouch in the measured tones of his Marvel character Dr Strange. With the Grinch, it seem less is definitely less.
Once again, the setting is Whoville, a Christmas-obsessed fantasy town that is watched over by a miserable, green grump who lives in a mountaintop cave.
As a series of flashbacks tells us that the reason the Grinch hates Christmas is because he was excluded from festival fun when growing up as a lonely orphan.
Early scenes show the adult Grinch running from carol singers, trashing a children’s snowman and behaving appallingly in a supermarket.
Pharrell Williams, who serves as narrator, tells us that The Grinch’s heart is “two sizes to small”, but his loving relationships with his pet dog Max and his tubby reindeer Fred suggest otherwise.
Deep down, we always know Cumberbatch’s Grinch is a sweetheart.
I would have liked to have seen a lot more of nasty Grinch before he was filled with Christmas spirit, a neat ending that Geisel said he regretted writing.
Here it fits perfectly. There’s no sense here that the Whos of Whoville are doing anything wrong. Their ever bigger Christmas tree and their ever gaudier lights are presented in a very positive, and very festive, light.
Sadly, songs don’t sparkle quite so brightly. Rapper “Tyler, the creator” provides a cover of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, a song from the 1966 cartoon version. It’s an efficient update but it fails to improve on the original.
Parents will also be a little disappointed with the stabs at humour. There is some decent slapstick but the dialogue couldn’t have done with a polish from a comedy writer.
I doubt this will matter too much to younger children. The action scenes are exciting, the animation is beautiful and Kenan Thompson puts in a very hearty performance as Mr Bricklebaum, a new, bearded character who has the most over-the-top festive decorations in town.
But I suspect they will prefer Jim Carrey’s anarchic grouch. Being nice pays off at Christmas, but being naughty is just so much more fun.