While Dr. Seuss made deliberate juxtapositions with his language to great effect, I don’t think he would have appreciated the clearly unintentional contradiction that is The Lorax. Surely the movie makers realized what they were doing.
Here’s a preview:
And now for some deets:
Released March 2, 2012
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (Based ever so loosely on the book by Dr. Seuss)
Starring: Taylor Swift, Betty White, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Jenny Slate, and Rob Riggle
Rated: PG (Should be at least PG-13 for violence against the viewer’s intelligence)
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I usually like animated fare. I think Kung Fu Panda 2 was one of the best movies of 2011. So it’s unusual for me to so completely dislike an animated movie as much as I disliked The Lorax. Honestly, it was so misguided and so poorly crafted that I just wish they could go back and start again.
May I just state here that I expected much more from Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. They wrote Despicable Me. Need I say anything more?
Ted (Efron) is a 12 year old besotted with Audrey (Swift). (I had to look up Swift’s character’s name, because this character is as stock as you can get.) Ted devises ways to get Audrey’s attention, so we start by watching him buy and crash a toy airplane in her back yard. She takes him back there to find the plane, which he promptly forgets because she starts talking about something called trees. He becomes convinced that Audrey will love him forever if he can find her a tree.
So Ted asks his mom (Slate) about trees. Mom thinks they’re a myth, but Grammy Norma (White) knows all about them and directs Ted to go find the Once-ler who lives some distance outside of town. The town is called Thneedville. It is located where the old Thneed factory used to be (it helps if you’re familiar with the book here). The people live in a city in the middle of a wasteland, somehow eating and being industrious, although there is apparently nothing in the way of resources. This is the first problem this movie has.
Ted heads out, finds the Once-ler, and is told over a few days the story of how the Once-ler invented Thneeds and used up all the truffula trees in the land in order to grow his company– all out of greed. The Once-ler did all of this in direct opposition to the Lorax (DeVito), who apparently was speaking for the trees. Now Ted has a chance to save the trees, but there’s also a bad guy named O’hare (Riggle) who is bottling air and wants more money.
Let’s start with the Lorax, just for kicks. He’s small, round, and hairy. DeVito is 2 of those and he does a fine enough job, although if rumor is to be believed, Craig Ferguson was originally cast and he would have been infinitely better. The movie is called Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The Lorax has about ten minutes of screen time. He supposedly speaks for the trees, but mostly what he does is manipulate the animals around him and create mischief. He doesn’t argue for the trees, doesn’t really spend more than one sentence on trying to tell the Once-ler why the Once-ler must not cut down these trees.
This is NOT Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, folks. This is Hollywood’s belief that a brash, crass creature will bring audiences to the cinema seats.
Next we have the creatures. Fish that walk on land, an infinite number of small, cute bears who act like monkeys and have no personality outside of Three Stooges humor, birds that squeeze out eggs as if they were constipated. It’s all done for the cheap laughs, not for a magical world of whimsy.
The story is so far afield from Dr. Seuss’ admittedly agenda-filled book, is so heavy-handed and in your face and absurd, that there is no charm. Seuss’ book rhymed, had fun humor and a heart, was filled with fantastical illustrations, and told a coherent story from start to end. The story in The Lorax movie is artificial, preachy, and has nothing entertaining beyond surprisingly good dialogue and intermittently interesting images.
And the coup de grace is the fact that the story of this film preaches against crass greed and commercialism, all while taking, again, cheap repeated shots for laughs, filling the talking roles with big tween-worshipping names, and adding music which, while fun and catchy, had no place in a movie like this. So it’s a movie that tries to tell you to stop being greedy and looking only for big bucks, all while being greedy and doing everything it can to score big bucks.
The film suffers greatly because of this contradiction and lack of heart and charm. The voice talent is okay, although Taylor Swift should stick to writing songs about lovers who spurn her. No, this movie is not one you need to see. Your kids might laugh, but you won’t, because the entire thing is so charmless and heavy-handed that even moments of humor lose their effectiveness.
Nope. Stay away from The Lorax, my friends. This one’s a stinker.
Content warnings: some crass humor.
Writing: 1 Acting: 3 Overall: 1.5
You think I’m blowing smoke, don’t you? Well check out Rotten Tomatoes. You’ll see!
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