I have 2 kids, so I see a lot of kid’s movies and tv shows. Honestly, that is one of the more fun things about being a parent, getting to act like a kid again while you play with toys and watch cartoons. I’m sure it is no secret to you that a lot of these movies and shows are pretty terrible (sitting through those is decidedly less fun).
I’m here to tell you that The Lorax is a good movie. A shocking statement, I know. But hear me out.
If you haven’t seen it you’ve probably only heard negative things about it, like the perceived hypocrisy of putting out official merchandise that wasn’t Eco-friendly, or that they had to add things to the story to stretch it out to feature film length. Maybe you’re just leery of anything that updates one of your found childhood memories. Or maybe you still have PTSD from seeing terrible Dr. Seuss inspired feature films like Jim Carrey overacting in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Mike Myers creeping everyone out in The Cat in the Hat or Jim Carrey over-voice-acting in Horton Hears a Who. Heck, perhaps you just hate Ed Helms and his singing.
I certainly couldn’t blame you for any of that. But what I will say is there is something good going on in The Lorax that is worth watching. Originally I saw this movie in the theaters with my son, and it has gone on to be one of his most re-watched dvds. So I’ve seen this thing quite a few times.
I grew up enjoying Dr. Seuss as much as the next kid. I had a lot of the books, really liked the art style and thought the bizarre words were funny. I can’t say I really remember reading The Lorax. I was always familiar with it and aware of the message of conservation it preached, but I don’t know I read it until recently getting it from the library for my son.
So I didn’t go into the movie with a lot of expectations or concerns about the reverence to the source material. I left the theater feeling a lot of pleasure about seeing something with such a simple, single positive message. I was also pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it all was. The music is catchy, the visuals are beautiful, the jokes are funny, and the societal commentary and satire is done in an intelligent way (particularly the way the town lives in excess).
But what really sold me that this was better than the average kiddy crap I’m subjected to was the handling of the Once-ler. This is probably the biggest departure from the book, and honestly I think it is a rather brilliant improvement. In the book we never see the Once-ler, just his hands popping out from behind things. The same is true of his family when they come to help him. I would say he is also pretty rough in the book basically from the moment his story begins.
The way this is presented in the movie actually ties into yesterday’s post about Breaking Bad. In the movie they make the wise choice to show that the Once-ler is a normal man, and introduce him to us (in his story) as a goodhearted, idealistic young hipster chasing his dream. His turn towards the evil, environment destroying industrial kingpin is depicted gradually. We’re given time to identify with him, see how others mistreat him, view how his insecurities motivate his actions, and experience how his dysfunctional family pressures him.
In the book we never really get to know the man, and it’s easy to imagine him as some cold, mean non-human which sort of minimizes his cautionary tale and prevents the reader from fully identifying with him and seeing how they actually impact the environment around them like this Once-ler.
This movie has enough silly fun to entertain kids while presenting them with an important message in a meaningful way. The Once-ler’s whole transformtive tale really comes to a boiling point when we get to this insanely catchy song of the movie that really kicks his decent into darkness into a sped up high gear.
I remember reading a few reviews complaining that the whole transformation only took place in that song. It makes me wonder if they actually watched the movie. The Once-lers entire story was a slow build leading up to this point. Maybe it was too subtle for them. And I will take a second to remind you that I have a Bachelor of Arts in Film Study from UC Berkeley, and have spent countless hours studying film theory. So I feel my opinions are just as well informed as these professional critics.
Does all this mean you’ll love this movie if you see it? Of course not. I don’t know anything about your personal tastes. All I’m really saying here is that this movie has good things to offer beyond what you might expect and I feel if you have to watch a kid’s movie this one is worth checking out.
P.S. My dad also saw it in the theater with my son and I, and he thought it was boring as could be. So what do I really know?