Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

Recently I made a long move roughly halfway across the world. To combat the intense boredom that comes with ~12 hours of flight, I amused myself by sleeping, listening to music, and watching a few movies.

One of those movies was, of course, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Sadly, my initial (and so far only) impression was disappointment.

Everyone, or at least almost everyone, loves Dr. Seuss. The Lorax has never been one of the most popular stories, but it was still always a fun read. It has been accused of being dark (for a Seuss book), and is very heavy with environmentalism, which is iffy for kids, I think. In general, they tend to be too heavy-handed, as I’ve mentioned before. The Lorax movie is no different.

As I just finished mentioning, I disliked how heavy-handed this movie was, and I’ll get a little more in-depth with that in a moment. The other thing I disliked was how altered the story was from the original.

Now, verily, I do understand how difficult it can be to adapt a 45-page book into a feature-length movie. So they add a jr. high student who’s in love with a senior, a town where everything is plastic, and an egotistical, power-hungry midget. The mish-mash of new story and The Lorax do not mesh well together – they are two different movies, and should have remained as such.

I could have lived with focusing on the background of the Onceler. The parts with his family can be quite amusing, and I wish they had been fleshed out more. His descent from bright-eyed entrepreneur to money-grubbing bad guy is done within one song montage. A montage where he dresses like a crazy villain while singing about how he is a good guy. Even 2-year-olds can’t miss the symbolism.

While we hear the story/descent of the Onceler, we’re dealing with Ted. He’s 12, and head-over-heels for Audrey. She wants to see a real tree, so crazy Grandma tells Ted where to go to find the Onceler. Sneaking outside Thneedville, Ted sees a dark, gloomy wasteland of trees. Far outside, he finds the Onceler and hears the story of how he came to be here.

So. Inside Thneedville, town of plastic, we have Ted; Ted’s grandmother and mother; and O’Hare the billionaire air-made man who has a few issues with control and Big Brother-symptoms. Outside, we have the Onceler. We switch back between the two places, with Ted having to go through increasingly insane measures to sneak past the O’Hare cameras to get outside. We know why O’Hare doesn’t want any trees, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason for him to want to keep everyone inside. If anything, you’d think he’d like to show them the outside so they want to stay inside more.

Between the two smashed stories, I feel like we miss a lot of the original story to develop the comic relief (the animals, who are adorable and awesome), and give the Lorax and the Onceler more camera time. The crux of the original story, where each animal leaves one by one as the environment gets worse, is traded for a song montage. I suppose it’s one heavy-handed image for another, but at least we could claim it was being true to the original story.

Another problem is that The Lorax makes capitalism look bad. The Onceler creates a new product, which helps create and drive a thriving economy. While I understand the “save the environment” message, this is so strong as to say that there’s no room for creativity in life.

In conclusion: The Lorax was a disappointment. As an environmental film there’s nothing different about it. It doesn’t show anything new, doesn’t really make us care about the characters. It’s no Wall-E. The soundtrack features some amazing vocal talent singing silly songs, which can be fun, but this movie has no staying power. It won’t become a classic. Rather, The Lorax will simply become another environmental film failure that shows up in the bargain bin at your local Wal-Mart.

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