Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, in scene from the movie The Grinch. Supplied by Universal Pictures.
Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, in scene from the movie The Grinch. Supplied by Universal Pictures.

Grumpy season is here with another take on Dr Seuss classic

You might know him as Dr Strange in Marvel movies or as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC drama series, but Benedict Cumberbatch has another side to his acting career - being heard but not seen.

He is as an experienced voice over artist (The Hobbit, Penguins of Madagascar) but his latest role has him playing the lead in an animation for the first time.

Cumberbatch voices the iconic classic green and tiny-hearted Christmas-hating villain in a new feature film version of Dr Seuss's famous tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Playing the cantankerous, green furry creature came naturally to Cumberbatch.

"There was no acting required because I'm a little bit grumpy most of the time as the three people currently standing in this room nodding their heads can attest,” he said with a chuckle.

The role involved a lot of work in stages over two years. During that time Cumberbatch became more fluid with the character, finding a feel for the the Grinch's meanness and adapting to the unique story-telling structure.

"It is a bizarre process. You don't work with any of the other actors, which is a little peculiar. But eventually it all takes shape.

The musicality of Cumberbatch's voice lends itself well to the nonsensical language of this well-known Dr Seuss character.

He was asked to use his own voice, but Cumberbatch insisted he replaced his English accent with an American drawl.

Interestingly, the Dr Seuss book has been adapted into film three times - a 1966 animated TV film starring Boris Karloff as both the narrator and the voice of the Grinch, a 2000 live-action feature film directed by Ron Howard and starring Jim Carrey and this year's 3D computer-animated production.

In this latest version, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures explore a bit more of what makes the Grinch so grumpy, using flashbacks of his early life to give an explanation as to why he gets more aggravated around Christmas time.

In Dr Seuss's words, "However many sizes too small his heart is, there is a very strong beating heart to this.”

"We find out why he is so grinchy and the script sheds some light on the reason he is traumatised by the festive season,” Cumberbatch said.

"Christmas is obviously a time of loneliness and isolation for the Grinch. Perhaps that's why he is green. He is envious and full of vengefulness and hate, for the joy and spirit shown in the Whosville community.”

Narrated by Pharrell Williams, The Grinch brings the tale to life via great CGI animation. It is funny and uplifting with twists and turns along the way.

This Grinch tells the story of the cynical grump who lives a solitary life inside a cave, rigged with inventions and contraptions, on Mt Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company.

When the Whos declare they are going to make the festive season three times bigger, the Grinch goes on a mission to steal Christmas by posing as Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, but he is trapped by a young girl, Cindy-Lou Who, whose generous holiday spirit changes his heart.

Cumberbatch may curse Whoville with his unbearable cynicism as the Grinch, but in reality, he is looking forward to having time off and spending Christmas with family and friends, hoping the things we need most - love and kindness - are bestowed upon us all.

The Grinch opens on Thursday.

STARS: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones, Angela Lansbury, Kenan Thompson, Cameron Seely, Pharrell Williams.

DIRECTORS: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier


REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: Catch The Grinch at cinemas across the country from November 29 and your heart may just grow a few sizes bigger.

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