A Seuss Strike Out pt 1: The Lorax

Pictures7Hollywood you owe Theodore Geisel an apology.  The man otherwise known as Dr.  Seuss has been injured by Hollywood.  Injuries that I don’t know if his work will ever recover from. At best his legacy is severely tarnished by the usually powerful art of movie making and it isn’t just one injury but 3 (could make an argument for 4 but I’ll go with 3).

If you live under a rock and don’t know who Dr Seuss is he wrote brilliant books of poetry for children with imaginative characters, worlds and even his own words thrown in. His only poetic contemporary might be Shel Silverstein but his poems were more grounded in reality than Seuss.

Most importantly there was always a message within Seuss but usually it was a subtle background to the poetry and creativity.  It’s like the messages were an added bonus but not the sole focus on the story.  This subtlety made the messaging all the more effective because it treated kids with respect.

Seuss believed children really weren’t that different from adults as far as reading and entertainment.  He famously said “Children want the same things we want.  To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and to be delighted”  I love that quote especially the to be challenged part.

Unfortunately all 4 of the Hollywood attempts to make a movie of Seuss’ work have failed to live up to these basic tenants for great storytelling.  Horton Hears a Who is tolerable but the other 3 are loud, grotesque, unfunny with muddled to actually harmful messaging.  The exact opposite of Seuss.  It makes me sad. I’m going to review these 3 turds because I think all are emblematic of the worst of modern movies.  I’m not sure when I will post all 3 but I will start today by reviewing The Lorax…ugh

seuss2The Lorax

People often ask me what the worst animated film I’ve seen is.  In the short list are turkeys like 8 Crazy Nights, Fly me to the Moon, The Hero of Color City, and Mars Needs Moms.  But none of these movies actually did damage to the legacy of an icon and taught the exact opposite message of the source material like the mediocrity of The Lorax.  It takes the Seuss story about moderation and love for the earth’s resources and turns it into a story of corporate greed.  Urgh…ticks me off!

film blog loraxIn the book Seuss teaches about how a man named the Once-ler invents a product that requires him to cut down trees.  He loves the trees which is part pf what inspires his invention.  “All my life I’ve been searching for trees such as these”.  They excite him and he comes up with something that will help people called a thneed.

The Lorax is kind of the patron saint of the trees and tells Once-ler to not chop them down.  The Once-ler responds he  is just going to chop down a few to make something useful and to help his relatives have jobs.  It will be no big deal.  Just a few trees.

Things of course get out of control “I meant no harm but bigger I got”  The  Lorax bemoans the loss of the swamp and the creatures and eventually they hear the last truffala tree get chopped.

And then the Lorax gives some lovely advice to our readers

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better.  It’s not”

This isn’t a person without hope but it is exactly a person like the Once-ler where hope lies.  We can all do something to make a change and make things better.  We have too.  We need too.  It’s a cautionary tale about how the best of intentions can lead to great harm when not checked and when we don’t listen to our prophets and teachers.  But we all care and can do ‘a lot’ so that things will ‘get better’ .

You see what a perfect message that is?

seuss10So what does the movie give us? Instead of a penitent Once-ler with a chance to regrow the trees we get an evil CEO who is literally selling air. He needs to keep the trees away so that he can get more money.  It’s like President Business in Lego without any of the backstory of the father and the toys (or good writing, vocal performances or animation…).

The Once-ler has not made an invention that will help people and support his family.  No, he’s making hats out of the truffula pods and sings about money in about a minute after our introduction…

oncelerGone is a character we can relate too, a character that might make choices we might also make.  Instead we walk away from the movie feeling that CEOS are greedy and awful and they need to change.

None of the empowerment and subtley of the book. None of the message that all of us need to make changes to save our planet. None of a sense that we understood why the Once-ler did what he did.  He’s just greedy and obsessed with the trappings of wealth, power and looking cool.  Like a white collar crime we can look at it with disgust but feel no sense of personal introspection or desire to change.

loraxfishOn the poster we see proudly declared “from the creators of despicable me…” and this is so obvious in the movie.  Everything from the color palate, to the character design, to the little fish who are groan-inducing copies of the minions without any of the charm or laughs.

the-lorax-still03Oh and did I mention we get the great voice talents of Taylor Swift and Zac Efron?  They narrate the story unnecessarily (in the book there is a boy the Once-ler meets but no girl and not a part of the story).   It’s the same problem I had with Home.  Swift and Efron do not sound like children in the least and are so boring together.   Swift’s Audrey is the manic pixie dream girl we’ve seen a million times and Efron’s Ted is a complete bore. Not to mention there are about a million ways the CEO could deal with these kids especially if he CONTROLS THE AIR! And yet he paints over Audrey’s drawings.  Oh no! What a mean guy!

the-lorax-pic06Betty White appears as the loveable old hoot grandma we’ve also seen a million times (often times by Betty White!).  She’s cool because she dances and makes inappropriate comments at dinner.  What a riot…It’s all so lame.

The music by John Powell is uninspired and for the preschool set only (and yet not really appropriate for kids that young when you think about messaging and style).  I defy anyone to hum or sing any of the songs a day later? This is no Menken Ashman that’s for sure.

If I’m going to be positive I will say that it is bright and colorful and Danny Devito is fine as the Lorax but the script lets him down.  He is just a grump instead of an advocate for nature.  In the book we feel so sad that the Once-ler didn’t listen.  It’s a tragedy with a ray of hope at the end.  In this the Lorax is just an annoying little pest.

lorax3It depresses me to no end Seuss’ message of ‘unless someone like you”  is completely lost in in this lazy uninspired movie.  In fact, the exact opposite message is taught- “the environment?  That’s other people’s problem.  Rich people who own big companies problem”.

That’s the greatest sin of all.  You could watch this with kids and I’d bet none of them would walk away wanting to plant a tree or do something good for the earth.  They may hum a song or two or giggle at the fishes but my guess is in about a day they will have forgotten they have seen it.

lorax4Seuss deserves better than that.  The message deserves better than that.

Also I will say for a movie that does the whole ‘greedy CEO’ thing they sure were happy to pimp themselves out to Mazda, IHOP and a million other sponsors come movie time.  It is the cherry on top of some of the most cynical movie-making I’ve seen.  Let’s just make a buck any way we can!

Maybe that’s why the whole pollution angle of the book wasn’t really addressed? In the book the world of the Once-ler is gross with filthy water and air. In this movie the world with no plants or non-pumped in air looks pretty nice. In fact, they are singing songs about how great it is! Wouldn’t a world with no plants be disgusting? Not some kind of plastic paradise?  Sigh…They should be ashamed of themselves.

lorax ad lorax breakfastIt’s a definite F for me.  I hate it but just wait till we get to The Grinch and Cat in the Hat which are even worse…Why Hollywood? Why?

Hollywood Seuss Strike 1

27 thoughts on “A Seuss Strike Out pt 1: The Lorax

  1. You’re so right! Hollywood has just destroyed Dr. Seuss in feature films. He’s respected by the old TV shorts from back in the day, but I don’t know why Hollywood just wants to kill him in film version. Illumination Entertainment is working on new animated feature films of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and I’m just praying that they at least do a decent job with them.

    Zac Efron I felt wasn’t bad, but just miscast. He was so old for the part.

    What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book/story?

    1. Isnt it the truth? I think Hollywood just wants to make a buck. It’s very sad.

      Hadnt heard that about a series. TV has been nicer to Seuss so hopefully it could be good as a series but not very optimistic.

      I think my favorite is Horton Hatches the Egg. I like the message on work and honoring your commitments. “I meant what I said and I said what I meant an elephants faithful 100%”. I like that but they are all great.

      1. Well, there wasn’t any TV series about it, but there were half-hour specials of many Dr. Seuss books: The Cat in the Hat (simply love that one w/Allan Sherman as the voice of the Cat in the Hat), How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Butter Battle Book, The Sneetches, The Lorax, The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, etc.

        My fave Dr. Seuss story is The Sneetches. “Now the star-bellied Sneetches had bellies with stars and the plain-bellied Sneetches had none upon thars.”

      2. Right. I think the smaller format of TV does better for Seuss because the stories are so short. Stretching them out to a movie is just not a good idea. The only thing maybe that might work is something like Seussical the musical which combines many of the Seuss stories into one show (kind of like Into the Woods).
        That’s a good one as your favorite. I like we both picked lesser known Seuss.

      3. I would like to see Sussical someday. I hear it’s good. They should make a movie of it.

        And I honestly don’t consider Horton Hatches the Egg and The Sneetches to be that lesser-known. I’d say something like the 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins is pretty not well-known.

      4. They aren’t the big one’s I’d say (Green Eggs and Ham, Grinch, Oh the Places You’ll Go, Lorax, Cat in the Hat I’d say are the big ones).

        I wouldn’t be surprised if they do Seussical because as bad as they’ve been all the Seuss movies have made money.

      5. I havent heard of 500 hats so definitely lesser known 😉

      6. When I was younger, I went through a project where I was trying to read all of Dr. Seuss’ books. I can’t remember if I succeeded in it or not.

        At least we get to enjoy the new posthumous book from him, “What Pet Should I Get” on July 28th.

      7. I remember trying to read every Dr. Seuss book at one point, too. I own The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, in fact.

        Here are the ones I think I didn’t get around to:
        The Pocket Book of Boners
        The King’s Stilts
        The Seven Lady Godivas

        The Cat in the Hat Song Book
        The Foot Book
        I Can Draw It Myself
        Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!
        The Shape of Me and Other Stuff
        Great Day for Up!
        The Cat’s Quizzer
        Oh Say Can You Say?
        Hunches in Bunches
        I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today!
        The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough
        Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go!
        Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!
        The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories
        Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories

        Ten Apples Up on Top!
        I Wish That I Had Duck Feet
        Come over to My House
        The Eye Book
        I Can Write! A Book by Me, Myself
        In a People House
        The Many Mice of Mr. Brice
        Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog?
        Hooper Humperdink…? Not Him!
        Please Try to Remember the First of Octember!
        Maybe You Should Fly a Jet! Maybe You Should Be a Vet!
        The Tooth Book
        Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!!

        The Lorax was always my favorite.

  2. I haven’t seen this one but what a shame. The Seuss books are so great and I hate that Hollywood ruined them. The only one I’ve seen is the Grinch and I really did not like it so I never bothered to see any of the other Seuss movies.

    1. Yeah if you are going to see one Horton Hears a Who is the best of the group. It is a shame especially because people remember movies more than books these days.

  3. I know your disdain for Lindsay Ellis and her review methods, so it really says something when both of you are in exact agreement about something.

    I’ve never talked about this because I never felt there was anything interesting I could add. But The Lorax is one of the first books I ever loved. I read it over and over again when I was 4-5 and throughout my early childhood. It was a mini-masterpiece.

    This is nothing of the kind. This is manufactured, gratuitous junk I saw in the theater out of morbid curiosity. They do not make them like they used to.

    1. Her review I must admit on The Lorax is pretty good. I also like her video on the least awful Disney sequels. There aren’t many defenders of this movie. There are people who say “it’s just fun” but I never hear much more than that.

      Thanks for sharing that about the book. It’s a very moving story and empowers kids (and adults) to do something, make a difference. This movie is just junk

      1. I don’t quite like that second video not just because I have a sad nostalgia for some of those movies, but mostly because at the end she says the parents are really to blame for allowing their children to watch these films.

        I think that’s one of the most absurd mean-spirited statements I have ever seen, and it also implies that anyone who genuinely liked those movies was an idiot or someone who had been deeply damaged in their tastes.

      2. Don’t remember that in the video but yeah that’s silly. We all like different things. I personally think the best of the sequels is Cinderella 3. They tried to do something different and clever. No masterpiece but watchable. Lindsay hates Man of Steel so we see eye to eye on that one. I guess in her defense she has a lot to live up too with Nostalgia Critic being so popular (and more money in it). Great thing about youtube is there is room for everyone. 🙂

      3. Except that most of those people are idiot trolls who insult other users and thumb up hate videos at the drop of a hat. Yeah, that’s unfortunate.

        I think I will have to watch Man of Steel again. I think I just don’t like the style of modern superhero films. I wish it could just be a fun lighthearted movie about a story instead of a series of special effects made to look good on the big screen and nothing else. But for some reason it seems like you can’t make that any more, that style of filmmaking is dead. So I don’t see how Man of Steel could have been improved or how I’m qualified to review it.

        I like Lindsay’s reviews, honestly. I admire her pragmatic mind’s style of reviewing. If you want reviewers who are really negative, negative, for the sake of being critical you can look at (http://readingwithavengeance.tumblr.com/post/32214321811/the-hunger-games-ch-01) or (http://dragon-quill.blogspot.com/2012/04/fault-in-our-stars-chapter-1.html).

        They’ve also made derogatory remarks against most readers for not challenging what they read, and suggested that people have not trained themselves to think critically, and this can be fixed if they are only taught.

      4. Trolls are the worst. It’s such a cowardly way of being a jerk. The one nice thing about making your own content is you can control the trolls. Click they are gone 🙂

      5. I apologize for using the term “idiot” if that’s considered derogatory here. If so, just remove it from the comment.

  4. Cinderella 3 is actually one of my least-favorite. It’s too revisionism and fan-ficcy (and this is from someone who has written fanfiction) and I don’t like how they make the Stepmother such an over-the-top evil villain when in the original she was very restrained and grounded in reality. I liked the subtlety in how all her villainy stemmed from her control over Cinderella’s force, and she rarely actually broke the law.

    1. Ha. She’s more of a standard villain and it’s nothing to the original which is my 3rd favorite Disney film but I thought they at least tried and I enjoyed it. I can see what you are saying but it’s watchable for me. Most of the sequels I cant stand to watch. The Lilo and Stitch sequel is pretty good. Those are probably the 2 I like but if you feel differently that’s great. You should comment over at Animat. He’s reviewing the sequels poor soul…

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