Every Who down in Whoville gets a new Grinch this season. Why, you may ask? The idea defies reason. Does the classic need help from a hot Cumberbatch? Or is this strange union a bizarre mismatch?

The Grinch is the story you learned as an infant, starring a Christmas-hating heel and his doggie assistant. The fuzzy green villain hopes to make holiday gloom. Just like a wicked witch, but without the broom. He targets presents intended for tots. Oh, how horrific is this nasty crackpot.

Seuss never explained what prompted this act. Perhaps the Grinch wore shoes that were too compact? (Or maybe, just maybe, his head had been whacked?) Should he consult a cardiologist chart? The answer is clear: It's because of his heart.

In "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch ," liberties are taken. Some are just padding, some quite mistaken. It's suggested that our old friend the Grinch is an orphan, as though that excuses inflicting misfortune. There's a new sidekick, a plump reindeer named Fred, and the remaking of Cindy's mom as unwed. (Could she be a love for the small-hearted bad boy? Kind of, maybe, but look, this isn't Tolstoy).

Any-who, our Grinch decides to cancel the holiday, or make it as boring as, say, Groundhog Day. He hops inside chimneys to hoover up toys, certain to do it with an insouciant poise. Remember, this guy is the anti-merry -- the same one played not long ago by Jim Carrey. Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the part, with an American accent -- to give him less heart?

Our narrator here is Pharrell Williams, whose brief days at work likely paid him zillions. Kenan Thompson of "Saturday Night Live" fame, delivers a character who is kind of lame. But Angela Lansbury has a nice cameo (that woman's as priceless as an unearthed Van Gogh).

The Grinch, diabolically, dresses like Santy Claus, in an ultra-evil cloud of guffaws. He beats by a few hours the real Kris Kringle. (No wonder this loner creature never mingles.) But a run-in with Cindy, as sweet as chocolate liquor, makes something grow huge -- that's right, it's his ticker.

The Whos down in Whoville don't mind that they're gift-less. They gather together, sing and bear witness. Christmas, they say, isn't about treasure: It's about family, friends and being together. Then they tuck into roast beast. You, on the other hand, may feel fleeced.

Credit goes to the film's visual effects folk, who made fur alive and gave texture to smoke. But retreading this story with a Cumberbatch, should send Hollywood bigwigs into the booby hatch. Before you buy tickets and plan a nice dinner, ask who exactly in Whoville thought this was a winner?

"Dr. Seuss' The Grinch," a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG with "brief rude humour." Running time: 79 minutes. One star out of four.


MPAA Definition of PG: Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.