Friday, March 29, 2013

The Lorax Movie Review

When The Lorax (2012) hit theaters I heard a lot of people talking about how they had never heard of, or were unfamiliar with Dr. Seuss' book, The Lorax. That surprised me since I remember having it read to me as early as Kindergarten and seeing the 1972 animated TV special dozens of times. Oh, well. Maybe the movie will inspire people to go read the book.
In a walled in city of Thneed-Ville, where everything is artificial and even the air is a commodity, a boy named Ted (Zac Efron) hopes to win the heart of his dream girl, Audrey (Taylor Swift).  When he learns of her wishes to see a real tree, Ted seeks out The Once-ler (Ed Helms), a ruined old businessman outside of town in a stark wasteland. Upon hearing of how the hermit gave into his greed for profits and devastated the land over the protests of the forest guardian, The Lorax (Danny DeVito), Ted is inspired to undo the disaster. However, the greedy Mayor of Thneed-ville, Aloysius O'Hare (Rob Riggle), has made his fortune exploiting the environmental collapse and is determined to stop the boy from undermining his business. Ted ventures out to restore the devastated landscape with the help of Audry, his mother (Jenny Slate), and his Grammy Norma (Betty White) while eluding the ever watchful Mr. O'Hare.
The trailer for The Lorax (and probably my summary there) leads us to think that the bulk of the story revolves around Ted and Audrey. Their story is pertinent, but the bulk of the story revolved around the young aspiring entrepreneur, The Once-ler, and how he started his business making and selling Thneeds, and his conflict of interests with The Lorax. That story is told in flashbacks while Ted's present-day story effectuates the unfolding back-story. It's a neat storytelling device that worked well in the movie.
The thing that bugged me about The Lorax was they did a lot of stunts to pad the length of the movie. There were musical numbers that did nothing to move the story forward; most weren't even catchy. There were only two musical numbers that were useful in any way. The first was the opening song that described Thneed-Ville, how there is no nature in it, and how there's lots of things to distract people from environmental awareness. The other was about The Once-ler trying to convince himself that his business practices weren't so bad. Every other song was about something which was already established and they seemed to do the musical number out of a sense of obligation. Just because it's a musical, you don't have to do a 3 minute song for every little piece of plot development. There were also cute forest animals doing cute things that we spent a lot of time focusing on before the scene got going. It was cute and funny, yeah, but they did too much of it and it seemed to be there for no reason other than to extend the length of the movie.
The Lorax was released theatrically in 3D. I watched it on instant play on NetFlix. There were lots of scenes that were clearly meant to showcase some 3D effects, including things that obviously were meant to pop out at the audience, and several first-person shots during roller-coaster-like chase scenes. I'm sure it was impressive in 3D, but in a 2D format it looked like those scenes were specifically tailored to add three or four extra dollars to movie ticket costs. From an artistic standpoint, that says to me that box office sales were more important to the producers that showcasing a story through a unique art medium. That is sloppy movie making.
A lot of people were kicking up a stink about the environmentalist message in The Lorax. Yeah, don't wipe out the trees, but I think there's more to it than just the tree-hugging cautionary tale. Under that overt layer of theme I felt there were more subtle themes that were well incorporated. What is the price of success? Are you willing to sell your soul for that success? If you do, will it feel fulfilling to you? Another theme touched on corporate greed and the hazard of flooding the market with your products. Heed the words of The Lorax, Angry Birds! The story is about a young man driven to succeed by his family and he takes it too far; I felt that was more of The Lorax's theme than it was about convincing your kids to be tree-hugging hippies as Fox News was trying to prophesy.
The Lorax wasn't a bad movie. It had some pacing issues what with the extra antics and musical numbers to pad the length of the movie. It was kind of fun and exhibited some stellar animation. It feels a bit preachy at times, but like I said the underlying themes are more interesting than the more overt environmentalist theme. It's amusing and I'm sure young viewers will enjoy it a lot. Frankly, I thought the old thirty-minute TV Special was better than this hour and a half CGI-fest.

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book or movie? Comment below and tell me why!

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