Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Lorax Review

By Francisco Salazar

Dr. Seuss is no stranger to cinema as many of his beloved books have been turned into movie. First came "The Grinch who stole Christmas", then "The Cat in the Hat" and finally "Horton Hears a   Who." All these films have not only brought the distinguished author's magical worlds to life, but have also brought great revenue as well. As a result it is no surprise that the studios would bring yet another one of his beloved books to the screen. The Lorax directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) gives us the visual brilliance one has become accustomed to in a Dr. Seuss movie. The film tells the story of Ted a young boy who sets out to find a tree so he can win the love of Audrey. In order to do so he has to leave Thneedville, a Utopian society that lacks any trees, ruled by the powerful Mr.O'Hare who controls the air. Ted escapes the town and through his journey he comes across a decaying world and Once-ler, the man at guilt for the destruction and pollution. Once we arrive at Once-ler's,  the movie starts to pick up as Once-ler explains why he cut down all the trees and why the world became what it is. The use of colors is probably one of the most effective tools used in the film. We start out in a world filled with bright, sparkling colors and once Ted steps out of Thneedville, dark grays permeate the surroundings.

Through Once-ler's story we meet The Lorax, the protector of the trees and nature. Here we see the Lorax protect over his animal friends, cute little bears and gold fish. He finds ways to throw Once-ler out and while not successful the message is clear. However The Lorax is unsuccessful as Once-ler destroys all the trees from his Thneed, an invention that makes him rich. The message is focused at this point of the movie and while it may be a bit childish you get the sense that the directors were confident with the material. 

However once Once-ler finishes his story, the movie becomes messy and over the top. Dr. Seuss's original source material is easily read in ten minutes and as result does not feature enough material to make a feature film out of it. As a result extra characters were added to create a long enough story. The result are underdeveloped characters and a rushed final act. For example, Mr. O'Hare who is supposed to be the main villain quickly disappears and all his master plans that were hinted at such as making more money by bottling air are completely disposed of. Ted's mother who was completely against trees changes in less than a second for no reason and Audrey and Ted's characters never fully become central as they were originally introduced as. They seem more like placeholders so that they can get to a happy ending.  The point is the film throws in a side story that never really feels organic. It's extra padding to add minutes to a book that could have been better handled if made into a short. 

Finally my biggest qualm with the film was the musical numbers. I understood the first one because it shows the Utopian society we were dealing with and how robotic and mechanical everything felt. However the second one which shows us how Once-ler became rich featured unmemorable music. The last song was cute but by that time I was wondering what type of movie it was trying to be.     

Dr. Seuss' books feature messages that are important to teach children and while this movies shows us the harm and ecological repercussions society can do to nature it is too simple, and too short to be memorable. It hate drawing comparisons, but films such as Wall-E have expressed this message in a more cohesive and adult friendly manner. Kids will enjoy the cuteness and quirkiness of the movie but it will be hard to appeal to other audiences.

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