Steven LaMorte directs a silly but entertaining (and copyright-obeying) version of a beloved redemption tale.
I’m not skilled enough to write this review in Seussical verse. I wish I were. Then I could have Anthony Hopkins narrate it.
Let’s rewind the tape on our favorite holiday tale of a town that liked Christmas a lot and the grumpy green killjoy who did not. You can keep going down the Mayberry path. Or you can press play on Steven LaMorte’s cheeky slasher, The Mean One. The creative team may not have had the budget for Sir Tony, but they’re fortunate enough to possess the wits to approximate the poetry.
Their story takes a more gruesome fork in the story after the first meeting between His Greenness and Little Cindy You-Know-Who. Their meet-cute quickly escalates into a bloody meet-brute. Left without a mother and without Christmas, she has dark days ahead. Only years later will Cindy (Krystle Martin) make her fateful therapist-recommended return home to Newville. With Christmas under lockdown, Cindy and this sleepy town will have to confront their nightmare if they ever want to feel merry again.
What follows is a fun and silly slap-dash horror comedy that slyly winks at the world of Seuss. It can never outright use any intellectual property, of course. But The Mean One is happy to skulk around the edges of legality like a blurry green bigfoot. You’ll find references to the author and some of his famous works, like Cat in the Hat and Horton Hatches the Egg.
The creature design is obviously inspired by the 2000 film, with its wrinkled-up nose and expressive face lines. Still, David Howard Thornton (currently riding a high from his performance as Art the Clown in this year’s Terrifier 2) breaks out and makes it his own. Far from a Carrey-cature, Thornton’s verdant beast remains silent, acting through his fingertips and grin.
He’ll need all his strength when he faces down Cindy You-Know-Who. A long-time stuntwoman in Hollywood, Martin is best when Cindy’s in tactical mode. She may have an endearing relationship with her father (the film’s screenwriter, Flip Kobler), and a budding romance with the town’s new, proudly Jewish deputy (Chase Mullins) seems promising (he’s “immune” to Christmas, you see). But her most profound commitment is to revenge. Armed with guns and a tree light bat in Martin’s hands, little Cindy You-Know-Who becomes Cindy Prescott, haunted by tragedy, out for justice, ready to scream.
If you’re looking for high-value production craft, The Mean One may not be for you. But if you have a sense of humor and a reverence for the tales of Dr. Seuss, this is one for the holiday books. Through all its CGI grindhouse gore, eye-rolling one-liners, and visibly limited budget, The Mean One still manages to get at the same message as the beloved original story. In both films, tradition and community are the keys to shirking commercial meanings of Christmas.
But where the original story is about rejecting “packages, boxes, and bags” by remaining quasi-legal, The Mean One takes its sleigh ride down an even bolder anti-commercial route. Even still, by embracing each other and rejecting commercial meanings of Christmas, the town, Cindy, and even the Gr**ch can have their hearts burst with holiday pride.
The Mean One opens in theaters December 9th.