Monday, 17 September 2012

The Lorax


If you enjoy the Go Compare adverts, then you'll definitely enjoy The Lorax. But if you have more than one brain cell, then you'll go and read the classic book by Dr.Seuss instead.

The Lorax represents everything I hate about a lot of recent animated films. The comedy was tacky, the animation was generic and the characters were unimaginative but worst of all in the case of The Lorax, the filmmakers had used Dr.Seuss's book as a gimmick to get bums on seats but had paid very little attention to the sentiment of the original story.

Not clever but cringe-worthy
The dialogue made me cringe, by trying too hard to sound modern, using phrases like 'news flash' . I also wasn't impressed by how every time a serious moment or message came along, it would be diluted by a bad joke — most likely used to lighten the mood and hold the young audience's attention. For example the moment when the Lorax warns the Once-Ler about chopping down the trees for the first time, they inserted a crass joke about the Lorax (Danny DeVito) not being able to reach the door handle. Not funny and it completely undermines his status as the story's conscience. I personally think Illumination Entertainment should have had more faith in their audience — no matter how young — and trusted them to understand the more poignant and powerful parts of the Lorax story without using bad jokes to stop them from getting bored.

Hollywood can't see the forest for the trees
In Seuss's ground-breaking original picture book, the Lorax uses dire warnings and examples to try and stop The Once-ler from cutting down all the trees. In this film, the Lorax's warnings are jammed together into one short musical number towards the end of the movie and the rest of the storyline is filled with him playing dumb practical jokes on the Once-Ler to deter him from his campaign of de-forestation. Thus the heroic character of the Lorax is turned into an annoying little munchkin with a moustache and it's made fairly obvious that the people who made this film didn't have any respect whatsoever for Seuss's message to children about respecting your environment. But even worse was the joke about the Lorax's use of rhymes which was basically ridiculing Seuss's storytelling style. Shame on them!

The Lorax is high on oxygen
Now, marginalising the eco-message might have been okay if what was jammed into the film in it's place was any good, but it wasn't. The musical numbers for example, while entertaining in a mind-numbing way, were ridiculously short and hyperactive and seemed to have been written by a load of toddlers on a sugar rush.

The film did have one or two good aspects - given that they needed more plot for a 90 minute movie than Seuss's picturebook could provide - they did have some good ideas. One of which was the addition of Thneedville to the story - the ridiculously artificial town where the hero Ted (Zac Efron) lives. The concept of the town having to sell bottled-air because of the pollution was particularly clever, although they could have taken this a lot further, by not making Thneedville quite so colourful - so that there would be more of a contrast to the forest that the Lorax inhabits.

Deforestation dumbed down
The original book ends with the Once-Ler, now old and having learnt his lesson, giving the final seed to Ted - thus offering a small hope for future generations but still staying true to the bleakness of Seuss's morality tale. In the film, none of that bleakness remains, because Ted manages to plant a seed and grow a tree after a quick race-against-time action scene - and the take-away from the movie seems to be - don't worry, as long as you can outrun the Evildoers, cutting a few trees down is fine!

Fruit Loops instead of fruit
It might have been colourful and energetic, enough to entertain the 8-year-old I went with to see it, in fact she really enjoyed it. But she'd never read the book and that saddened me, because she's basically been served up a bowl of fruit loops in place of a genuine apple from the tree of knowledge!!

Ironically, the book's motto is: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better it's not." I doubt any child will remember this movie past teatime, and will be affected by it enough to care even a little.

In that respect, the only good thing about this movie is that Dr Seuss (aka Ted Geisler) never had to see it.

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