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Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (2012)

March 6, 2012


written by: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul

produced by: Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy

directed by: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda

rating: PG (for brief mild language)

runtime: 95 min. 

U.S. release date: March 2, 2012


In a deliberate move by Universal Pictures, the latest Dr. Seuss movie is being released on the date of the late author’s 108th birthday. It is uncertain though if the move to smother Seuss‘ 1971 book The Lorax with messages of corporate greed, pop culture references, and overindulgent musical numbers, was deliberate.  It’s obvious that Illumination Entertainment and director Chris Renaud (the team behind “Despicable Me”) had to stretch out the source material with its low-page count, in order to draw in millions to the multiplexes, but it’s too bad they couldn’t just rely on the whimsical nature of the book and trust in its themes of deforestation and conservation to entertain children and their families. “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is filled with colorful Truffula trees (except when they’re all chopped down, of course), characters that maintain the Seuss look, and near-perfect voice acting talent. Unfortunately, the fun and silliness of the story is snuffed out by a hard PG rating and an off-putting heavy-handed approach that is just too boisterous for this short and sweet story.


Oh sure, the audience will indeed laugh and eat this big (IMAX is an option) 3D CGI animated blockbuster up, but I can’t say you’ll leave feeling any sense of awe or wonder (like, “The Secret World of Arrietty”, the other animated film now out) or having a sense that this was a fulfilling entertainment. It just comes across likes it’s unnecessarily and uncharacteristically trying too hard to do too much – often relying on the similar tone of other recent animated hits to earn laughs.

Twelve year-old Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron) lives with his mom (Jenny Slate) and Granny (Betty White) in the fabricated town of Thneed-Ville, a place where plastic and artificial is the new organic and natural. Ted is dead-set on making an impression on Audrey (Taylor Swift), the girl of his dreams, who longs to see a real living tree. Granny tips him off to a place beyond the high city walls, where a guy named Once-ler (Ed Helms) may be able to direct Ted to a tree in the barren land surrounding Thneed-Ville. Ted secretly begins making trips outside the city and encounters a reclusive hermit, who reveals himself as Once-ler. Upon learning of Ted’s quest, Once-ler goes into his backstory, telling the boy how he is responsible for wiping out the Trufulla forests and sending all the cute animal critters on their way to find a new place to live.



Why did he do all this? To design some all-purpose fabric thing-a-majig called a Thneed, made from the leaves of the trees. The product is a big hit for all local Thneeds, causing Once-ler’s production to increase. Once-ler goes on to tell bout how The Lorax (Danny DeVito) appeared after the first tree was cut down. A funny-looking character with a furry orange body and bushy yellow eyebrows with a matching mustache that’s wider than his head, who “Speaks for the Trees!”Accompanied by adorable bears and singing fish, The Lorax does his best to thwart Once-ler (who now has his entire annoying family working with him) and his Thweed manufacturing. But it’s no use, in the end The Lorax’s efforts proves ineffective.

Meanwhile, greedy little Mayor O’Hare (Rob Riggle) has been monitoring Ted’s activity and is keeping a close eye on any possible changes the boy may be introducing to Thneed-Ville. When Ted is given an opportunity to bring a tree back into his fabricated environment, the paranoid O’Hare uses every available resource to prevent him from reintegrating nature into their fabricated world, knowing full well it would threaten his lucrative bottled air business.



Having appreciated the simplicity of the book, I found myself both hesitant and anticipating this  movie. I’ll admit, I even have a soft-spot for cantankerous characters with no pants, especially if they’re voiced by Danny DeVito. But man, this film did not feel like a Dr. Seuss story. Disco balls, the theme from “Mission: Impossible”, identical henchmen, electric guitar-slinging characters that break out into song – it all piled up and it just didn’t fit. The directors and the writers apparently couldn’t see what a wonderful, simple little story they could’ve told here. Instead they had to rely on loud and big, as well as some scary scenes of peril, car chases, and a thin throwaway characterization for Audrey (the girl Ted will do anything for).

The poster and the advertising are really emphasizing “From the creators of Despicable Me” as if that’s supposed to be reassuring. It’s not that “Despicable Me” was a bad movie, it’s just that tonally, “The Lorax” is more akin to that movie than anything that feels like Seuss. Even little Minions from that movie can be found among Ted’s toys in his room. A Seuss story should have no relation to any other world – be it book or film – except another Seuss book. The whole idea of inserting an insanely stupid villain (with a Shemp haircut no less), made me just totally check out and left me disappointed.

Since “The Lorax” feels so disingenuous as it deviates from its source, it strikes me as odd that it would be so bold as to slap “Dr. Seuss” in front of the title. The studios want you to believe that what you’re watching is something that came from Seuss. Not entirely true and certainly not in all the areas it matters. I know my 5 year-old didn’t get all that much out of it. Let’s fact it, corporate greed is about as excited for kids as trade negotiations were in “The Phantom Menace”.






2 Comments leave one →
  1. Windi permalink
    March 6, 2012 6:51 am

    Calvin wants to see it, because he wants to see just about every kid movie out there, and of course the previews make it look fun, but Trevor is adamant that he does NOT want to see it, and pretty much exactly for the same reason you don’t like it. It’s not truly a Seuss movie, and that sort of ‘trickery’ makes Trevor angry. I can think of only one ‘Seuss movie’ that captured the spirit of his books, and it was done AGES ago. The Grinch remake was awful.

    I did like Despicable Me a lot, but I don’t want a Seuss movie to look or act like that one. It’s just not right. Seuss is a genius, and his stuff should absolutely, positively, stay just like it is. In book form. In his words, with no additions. They were never made to translate to movie form. Except maybe super short cartoons that don’t add or subtract his words.

    It’s kind of like putting Stephen King’s work on film. It rarely, if ever turns out well, and is usually quite bad.


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