[Review] – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

19 Mar

Title: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
Year: 2012
Directors: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Writers: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, based on the book by Dr. Seuss
Starring: Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, Betty White, Jenny Slate, Stephen Tobolowsky, Nasim Pedrad
MPAA Rating: PG, brief mild language
Runtime: 86 min
IMDb Rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Metacritic: 47

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax has been doing some pretty spectacular business at the box office; delivering the third-best opening weekend for a March release ever, and the eighth-best opening weekend of all-time for an animation film, and it’s grossed $158 million in the U.S. in three weekends, making it the highest-grossing domestic debut of the year, and fourth-highest worldwide. Well I finally got to watch it, and while it has some cute and amusing moments, the story has been beefed up so much that it actually bogs down the environmentalist message of the film, and Dr. Seuss is all about greatness in simplicity, so it kind of doesn’t do justice to its author’s legacy either. Not to mention that it doesn’t come close to matching the heights achieved by Despicable Me (which I gave an A- to in 2010), the other animated film made by Illumination Entertainment.

The film tells a story of an idealistic twelve-year-old boy who just wants to get the love of the girl he likes so much, and to do so he’ll have to discover the story of The Lorax, a little creature that’ll do anything to protect the world he lives in. But like I said, if you’re like me and you love Dr. Seuss then you’ll realize, after watching this film, that the title of it is rather off, this doesn’t really feel like it belongs to Dr. Seuss. I mean the basis of the story obviously is the environmental parable made by the legendary author some forty years ago, but the spirit of those awesome books seems absent here. And that’s a real pity, and for every good thing this film may have had I still had that feeling in my gut that it wasn’t being as true to its source material as it should have been.

Of course, it’s not as though adapting a picture book which you can read in under ten minutes into a film that needs to be about ninety minutes long is an easy task, and of course it’s a task that needs for the writers to create some filler to stuff the basic outline of the story with. It’s just that the filler in this occasion is just super weak material that doesn’t really add anything of substance to the story, and you can tell what parts were in the book and what parts weren’t because you can really notice the difference between the vital bits and pieces that move the story forward and the rest of it, and as such you can’t help but wonder if maybe this material wouldn’t have been better off as a forty-five minute seasonal TV special of sorts. But then again those $172 million and counting worldwide probably means making this a movie was a good call, at least financially.

If I’m being kind of overly critical, let me digress for a little bit. I mean, it’s not as though this film was absolutely horrible, in fact it came close to being decent enough, and it’s certainly not a train wreck like Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Cat was a decade ago (that book, after the success of this film, is also due to get a CGI 3D treatment in the future); it’s just that I wanted it to be better, especially after how much I loved Despicable Me and how much I love Dr. Seuss. But anyways, we get to meet The Once-ler, who’s voiced by Ed Helms, a reckless entrepreneur who ravaged a natural landscape only to now live ashamed in the barren and polluted land he selfishly desecrated.

As for the titular creature itself, it’s not one of Dr. Seuss’ most awesome creations, not by a stretch, and in the film The Lorax is voiced by Danny DeVito, which means I spent most of the film thinking this creature who speaks for the trees, was Frank Reynolds; and as much as I love It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, I really don’t mean that as a compliment in this case. The Once-ler proceeds to tells his story to the boy that comes to see him in order to impress the girl he likes, and we see how devastated he is about taking his environment for granted; while in the city the boy came from trees run on batteries and bushes are inflatable and no mind is paid for where their garbage goes after it’s consumed.

But while the message is there, the execution was just nothing close to great, the film being full of sight gags and mediocre one-liners and a stock villain in the form of a businessman who pollutes the Earth to drive up the prices of his bottled fresh air voiced by Rob Riggle. Not to mention that Ted, the boy trying to impress the girl, doesn’t really go through all this trouble because he’s an environmentalist, no, he just does it because he wants to impress sweet little Audrey (who’s voiced by sweet little Taylor Swift).

I just wish a movie could have been that was all like the parts of this one that really worked. Because there were a few of those here, the story about the meeting of The Once-ler and The Lorax I thought was really nicely done and told, and from those bits you kind of got a sense of gravitas to this story and its important message. The fact that it’s been stuffed with more than one chase sequence, silly jokes involving The Lorax and his forest friends and a few (admittedly catchy) songs, means that the film’s message will be hurt quite a lot because, like the film itself, it will be seen as harmless fluff. And that’s why I can’t really give this film a recommending grade.

Grade: C+

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