4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Animation, Family
Opens locally on Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour, 26 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voices of): Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White
Directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Kyle Balda (feature film debut)
This new film is of course a 3D-animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ 1971 book, The Lorax. Like much of the famed author’s work, The Lorax was imaginative, colorful, and written in the style of his other popular books like The Cat in the Hat, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! And like much of his work, this book had a deeper political meaning infused underneath the seemingly childish façade.
I remember watching The Lorax TV special when I was a kid, remembering also that it was dark and somber and unlike most of the cartoons I was used to watching. It tells the story of The Lorax, a magical fuzzy little orange creature, who watches over a forest of “Truffula trees.” He isn’t the central character, but rather it tells of a small boy who comes from a polluted town seeking answers to the current state of things.
The boy inquires of the mysterious Once-Ler, who is never seen, but tells the boy about a beautiful happy history full of blossoming trees and wildlife that existed prior to the pollution. The Once-Ler had made an invention that made him rich, but in doing so led to all of the Truffula trees getting chopped down. The Lorax had tried to warn the Once-Ler not to destroy the forest, but the Once-Ler’s greed and ambition leads to the destruction and pollution of the environment.
More than that, the consumers were also to blame.
In this film, the message remains the same, but it is packaged in a less dreary wrapping. The directors set out to make a fun family film first, and a faithful adaptation of a classic children’s book second. They succeed, but in doing so undercut the political messages of the source material.
That being said, it was wondrous to see the world of Dr. Seuss come to life in 3D, something lacking in the previous 3 Seuss movies. 3D used to be all about coming out at you, but the best of recent 3D pulls you in the other direction, deep into the screen. The Lorax submerges you into this Seuss World with exceptional confidence.
There are some changes made from the book and TV show. In the film, Ted is a young boy, who lives in Thneed-ville, a town entirely made of plastic. It is implied that at first he doesn’t care about what happened to the world, he’s simply trying to get a kiss from his crush. The villain is O’Hare, a stumpy little man who has profited from the environmental disaster by selling fresh air to its residents. The rest of the citizens are mindless automatons, existing only to consume and follow.
The Lorax is unarguably pro-environment, and it raises some thinly-veiled parallels with our current economical state. The masses cannot think for themselves, everybody is looking for profit, and nobody is willing to stop to assess the price our environment is paying. Even in the Once-Ler's factory, where he is profiting greatly from the trees that he is chopping down, we see a sign on the wall that says “Too Big To Fail.”
There are a lot of laughs and cute creatures that round out this cautionary environmental tale. The message is not watered down any, but the dangers are. This film is definitely not as scary as the book or the TV movie, and therefore, less is at stake.
Dr. Seuss' original intent may have been to invoke the importance of being one with nature, but in the movie, there are just too many colorful distractions polluting up the screen for us to take anything real away.
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