The Lorax – Movie ReviewMarch 13, 2012
Theodore Giesel, most commonly known as Dr. Seuss, is quite possibly the greatest children’s author that ever lived. His books have transcended multiple generations beginning in the mid-20th century, and as of this month, four of his most popular books have been adapted into feature length films. The fourth and latest of these adaptations is The Lorax, the new film from Illumination Entertainment (well-known for producing Despicable Me). Coming off their strong success with their hit debut film, did the writers of Horton Hears A Who! and the team at Illumination break the mold and actually make a good Dr. Seuss film?
In the seemingly perfect town of Thneedville, everything is made of plastic and other artificial materials (even the “plants” and food are fake). The town is also ran by Aloysius O’Hare (Rob Riggle), a greedy entrepreneur that sells and distributes bottled oxygen to the townsfolk in order to keep them leaving the closed-off city. At this point in time, a teenage boy named Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron) is in love with a slightly older high school girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift). She tells him of her love for nature, especially for the now extinct Truffula Tree that used to grow all around the surrounding area. Ted then plans to win her over by somehow finding a tree and bringing it to Audrey (she openly says that she would immediately marry a guy who gave her one), and with advice from his grandmother (Betty White), he leaves Thneedville to find the Once-ler (Ed Helms). Supposedly the Once-ler is an old man who knows the secret as to what happened to theTruffulaForest, so he seeks him out. Sure enough, Ted is told the tale of how the Once-ler disturbed the forest and awakened its guardian known as The Lorax (Danny DeVito), in hopes that the Once-ler will also tell him how to find a tree for Audrey…
Most of the criticism that has been directed towards The Lorax is that its environmental message is too heavy-handed, and I actually agree with that sentiment. Before I go into detail though, I want to put this film into a historical context. Dr. Seuss was a political cartoonist some years before becoming the popular author we know of today, so it makes sense that this film would have a political message. After all, pretty much every single one of Dr. Seuss’ books have some sort of political meaning behind them. Even so, The Lorax has always been one of Dr. Seuss’ more controversial books, and soon enough this film will probably become just as controversial. In my opinion, the writers went a little too far in trying to explain that logging and destroying the forests is bad. Yes, I do believe that we should make an effort to save the forests and protect the environment, a message that The Lorax does honestly convey, but I see this film as a blatant attack on the logging industry and just business in general. On that note, I have to say that The Lorax is very preachy in the way it conveys its message to the audience, and this is probably its biggest flaw considering that the politics of The Lorax are so overbearing that they have angered so many people (including liberals, mind you). You could argue that same thing with WALL-E, but at least environmentalism and corporate satire were not the central parts of that story, and that film was a lot more enjoyable and heartwarming.
That’s not to say that The Lorax is not an enjoyable film, because I did have fun watching it. The Lorax features much of the same kind of humor that made Despicable Me so memorable, which are cleverly timed slapstick and quotable phrases. The little forest animals we also knew from the book are depicted somewhat like the Minions (also from Despicable Me) for the way they squeak and such, but they are absolutely hilarious at times and provide plenty of charm (there’s even a scene in which they are secretly carrying off the Once-ler and are humming the Mission: Impossible theme). For the actual story itself (touchy politics aside), The Lorax is a slightly mixed bag. Whenever you adapt a rather short children’s book into a film, there are certain problems that filmmakers can face with the story, which usually involve staying true to the book’s message/story and also adding enough material to stretch an adaptation out to a decent runtime. The writers of The Lorax obviously had some troubles with that second part, because it has some issues with telling two different stories at once. On one side of the coin, the story of the Once-ler and his crimes against nature and The Lorax is told in retrospect as he tells it to Ted, and this is actually the better part of the film’s story. The Once-ler is depicted as a human in this version even though his species is ambiguous in the book, and what I loved is that here the Once-ler is a much more human character in terms of personality. In the film, he is trying to prove that he can be successful in life and actually feel appreciated for something he is working to accomplish by mass producing the Thneed, and throughout the film I felt emotionally connected to his character for this fact.
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