Film

The Lorax


The Lorax (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

Mr. O’Hare (voiced by Rob Riggle), the richest businessman in town who sold fresh oxygen in bottles, believed that Thneedville was perfect just the was it was: no trees, no animals, no mess to clean up. In their giant dome, to everyone’s convenience, everything was made out of plastic. When Audrey (Taylor Swift) confessed to Ted (Zac Efron), who happened to have a crush on her, that what she wanted for her birthday was a real tree, Ted courageously explored outside of Thneedville to look for one. Among the barren and ominous land was a house inhabited by a reclusive man called The Once-ler (Ed Helms), the person responsible as to why trees became extremely rare. Based on the book by Dr. Seuss and directed by Chris Renaud, “The Lorax,” despite its sometimes dazzling use of visuals, was at best a mixed bag of humor, adventure, and lessons about why we should care for the environment. The story was somewhat divided into two. The first involved Ted’s quest to acquire a tree and the second involved The Once-ler’s past as an ambitious and inventive young man. In the latter, we got to meet The Lorax, the guardian of the forest who spoke for the trees, which was the more interesting section of the film. While the screenplay spent more time with the youthful Once-ler, many of the scenes were plagued with distracting song and dance–only one or two of which were catchy and creative. The rest were not only jarring to the eardrums but they disrupted the story’s chance of gathering real momentum and drama, a sense of immediacy required to deliver a truly meaningful message about our active as well as inactive roles, such as feelings of apathy, in destroying our natural resources. I thought the bears were adorable, particularly the one that carried more weight than the others and so he was forced to lag behind whenever a physical activity was demanded, and The Lorax was a cuddly creature despite his occasional grumpiness. However, mostly relying on cuteness to propel the story forward with fluidity wasn’t enough to sustain the film especially considering its level of ambition. Furthermore, I did not appreciate that The Once-ler’s family was portrayed in such a one-dimensional way. I was able to accept that they were not very supportive of The Once-ler’s dreams of becoming a successful businessman. But there was something about them being portrayed as, pardon my language, rednecks that didn’t feel right. They were shown as greedy, users, and uncaring people. Not one exception who happened to fit all the stereotypes was presented. Since the work was aimed toward young children, I felt that the filmmakers, especially Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul who were in charge of the screenplay, had a responsibility to avoid cultural stereotypes. If the family had been Chinese, Indian or Filipino and their characterizations simply relied on ugly stereotypes, one could argue that the material was being racist. I may come off as a Grinch but despite the best intentions and morals that “The Lorax” wanted to impart about our vital connection to nature, its hits were inconsistent, its pacing too uneven, and its clichés potentially damaging to warrant a recommendation. Its theme in terms of empathy needed to be ironed out.

4 replies »

  1. This film is terrible. I rented it one night, and had to get an exchange from the video store. So. Freaking. Bad. I had to watch something amazing (Life is Beautiful) to erase the memory of this movie from my mind.

    • Even the style of animation didn’t work for you? I thought it looked pretty good.

      I’m glad you saw something better. I need to revisit “Life is Beautiful.” I remember being somewhat lukewarm about it before… but I saw it in a high school class and my taste has drastically changed since then.

  2. I gave this film a pass back in March, but the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. You assert the Lorax is a cuddly creature, but I don’t even think I can agree with that. He feels like a cantankerous old grump. He’s always there with an environmental lecture. How tiresome…er uh…I mean….How charming!

    • Hahaha. Maybe it’s because I like cantankerousness if it’s a character that’s colorful. (Like the grandpa in “Up,” for example.) It’s better than always being nice and boring! But yeah, I wouldn’t mind it if someone gives me a pillow or something of The Lorax. What I would mind is watching the movie again any time soon. (Maybe in 5 years.) It just isn’t good enough.

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