Friday, March 2, 2012

The Lorax message film isn’t preachy


The Lorax (Danny DeVito tells the Once-ler (Ed Helms)
about the dangers of chopping down trees.
Photo: Universal

  • Movie: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
  • Voice Talent: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito and Ed Helms
  • Directors: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
  • Genre: Animation/Family
  • Rating: PG

It is my firm opinion that Dr. Seuss stories shouldn’t be made into full length films. Typically, you can read a Dr. Seuss book in ten minutes. Trying to stretch ten minutes of material into an hour and a half is pretty tough. A half hour TV special or theatrical short seems to be just right. I still prefer the original Chuck Jones version of “Horton Hears a Who” over the long version that came out a few years ago, pretty much everyone is a fan of the animated “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” over the Jim Carey movie and don’t even get me started on the “Cat in the Hat” movie. With that said, the new “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is pretty good.

“The Lorax” is an environmental film, but it isn’t obnoxious. It tells a simple story about what happens when we don’t take care of the world around us. No preaching that trees or animals are more important than people. The movie has a few side messages as well like why it is important to keep your word, standing up to peer pressure and how falling in love with an order woman can get you in trouble.

The story begins in a little town where nothing grows. All plant life is plastic, the neighbors all purchase bottled air and there are no animals.  In this town, a Twelve-year-old boy named Ted (Zac Efron) is head-over-hills with Audrey (Taylor Swift) a high school girl and will do anything to impress her. The thing that Audrey wants the most? To see a real living tree. Ted’s grandmother (Betty White) tells him about the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who lives outside the city walls and could tell Ted what happened to all the trees. Ted eventually finds the Once-ler and he tells Ted about his own adventures many years ago with the Lorax (Danny DeVito), the protector of the forest.

 Half the charm of a Dr. Seuss book is the illustrations and the other half is that the story is told in rhyme. Universal nailed the first half with this movie. It definitely has the look and feel of a Dr. Seuss book and the art looks like it jumped right off the page. Although filmed in “tree-D,” the movie doesn’t need that gimmick. Some of the rhymes from the book made it into the film, but not all and frankly, it would probably get annoying after a while, but I think it could use some more. The movie works best when it follows the story. Any time the writers try to add a “funny bit” not included in the original book, it falls flat. Some characters are too cutesy for my taste, but I don’t think they were thinking of me when they were making this film.

“The Lorax” is also partially a musical and half of the songs are pretty good while a few are pretty forgetful. Ironically, the two voice actors known for singing (Efron, Swift) don’t and an actor not known for his singing (Helms) does – twice. Also surprising is how little the Lorax actually appears in the movie and with DeVito’s voice attached, I was expecting to hear a few more snarky comments from the little guy, but he is more enduring than cranky. Maybe DeVito is softening up?
(Originally posted on Examiner.com)

          

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