The best Christmas movies are filled with cold, hard truths.
In “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” we learned that a person — well, a mammal — might have to endure some bullying and self-doubt on the road to success.
“Home Alone” taught us the potentially deadly consequences of tunnel vision during a holiday that’s supposed to be about togetherness.
And “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was a lesson that truly vile people exist in this world, and that our best response to them is kindness. Even the hyperactive Jim Carrey version figured that out.
But this holiday season, kids are discovering a new, more considerate, less-scary Grinch. A Grinch to take home to your mother. A Grinch who’s already a pretty good guy before Cindy Lou and the singing town of Whoville show him the way.
A Grinch for whom change is a cinch.
In the latest iteration of Dr. Seuss’ story — now abbreviated to “The Grinch,” because how dare we introduce innocent cherubs to the concept of theft — Benedict Cumberbatch voices the formerly frightening character as a grumpy sad sack. A Squidward, if you like. There’s no menace or anger; nothing potentially triggering about him. He’s just cranky.
Weirder still, the Mean One now ventures down to Whoville on the regular and chats with the Whos! He shops — gag — at Who Foods. One Who, Mr. Bricklebaum (Kenan Thompson), obsesses over the Grinch and even calls him his best friend. Suddenly, he’s more like Boo Radley than a hateful mountain hermit.
At home, the Grinch’s dog Max is no longer a mistreated servant, either. Rather, he’s merely an underappreciated roommate. When the pup is overworked, the Grinch often asks him with concern if he’s OK. This is a guy whose “heart’s an empty hole,” “brain is full of spiders” and has “garlic in [his]soul”?
Later, as the green goblin is preparing to steal all the presents from under the trees of Whoville, he lovingly allows Fred the fat reindeer to remove his harness and spend the holiday with his family instead.
What if Ebenezer Scrooge told Bob Cratchit, “I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family!” halfway through “A Christmas Carol” as opposed to the last couple pages? There’d be no point.
Well, this is a Grinch film with zero point beyond continuing society’s destructive habit of protecting kids from harmless and potentially useful stories. In this age of social-media trolls, watching a solitary, truly repugnant meanie have a change of heart would be a positive message for children. One that defies seasonality and that they could carry with them.
Instead, we insist on shielding little ones from the harsh realities of the world, so that when they finally enter it, they’ll prefer the warm embrace of their parents’ basement.