Dr. Suess’ the Lorax 3D Review
It’s like a Pixar movie without the Pixar writing.
So I saw this Friday night but have been busy with a Warhammer tournament (I went 3-2 and am disappointed. In retrospect I wish I has brought my Skaven) and couldn’t write it up. I am seeing Project X later tonight and if I feel the love might write it up so this might be a two review day.
This movie definitetly fell into the “overhyped marketing should be a warning of it’s impending suckage” category. The trailer played on every movie I have seen in the last four months (and that is a lot of movies). It has been all over buses, billboards, and bus stops. They even came up with the lamest silence your cell phones movie PSA ever (honestly, everyone who has enough of a conscience to care about this knows you need to silence your cell phones by now. I don’t need the Lorax telling me in a 45 second commercial for it’s own movie what the still slide, Regal opening snack selling montage, and about 50 signs in the theater have already told me) starring the Lorax. Obviously they felt this movie had some failings and needed an extra push.
By the way, as this is a kid’s movie in every sense of the word I will not be doing my usual star/black hole thing. Just feels like punching puppies with I get that detailed.
This film did have some serious failings but the weird thing is it wasn’t what I thought the fail was going to be (Lord of the Fail image courtesy of the Funny T Shirt category). I thought the most annoying thing about this movie was going to be the voice characterization. Every time I would see a trailer with Danny DeVito doing the voice I would think “That’s Louie De Palma from Taxi“. The thing about great cartoon voice characterization is that when it is done right the cartoon character doesn’t actually sound like the person doing the acting. A good voice over person will “cartoon it up” or at least make an attempt to change it somewhat but in this movie it is pretty much Danny talking into a microphone. While that carried through and bugged me most of the movie (and, to be perfectly blunt, at least Danny DeVito had a distinctive voice. Zac Efron and Taylor Swift added nothing the their characters and were a blatant ploy to try to suck in a few kids past the age of 11. Based on the audience, that ploy failed) it wasn’t the thing that bugged me the most. Here are a few things that I feel really hurt this movie.
First off, the art. The thing about Dr. Suess that really rocked is he could deliver a cool story (I guess. I was never a huge Dr. Suess fan, except for the Star Bellied Sneeches. Those guys rock!) and do so with an extremely primitive seeming art style. Very classic, very Suessian. What this movie did was more or less recycle all the images from Despicable Me and change…pretty much nothing. Everything looks like a bloated slightly less life-like Happy Meal Toy. I truly believe they made this call simply for the ability to create more toys to sell to impressionable youths (a Google shopping search for “Lorax movie toys” gave me 248 items), but seriously to the detriment of the film. Instead of a distinctive Suess look we got another generic computer rendered 3D exxxxxxxxtravaganze. Nothing in the art is distinctive or even that interesting.
Secondly, the story is ham handed and amateurish. They managed to keep most of the original story (thank you Wikipedia) but added a dopey villain and love plot. Apparently no one in a kid movie can do something unless motivated by sex. Also, the anti-materialism message kind of loses impact in a film that just charged me an extra $3 for a disposable pair of 3D glasses to maximize profits.
I know it’s an oxymoron to call a villain in a cartoon movie “cartoonish”, but the villain in this film (a rich entrepreneur who got rich selling idiots bottled air. By the way, if you were hoping your kids would learn something cool about recycling and environmental science besides “cutting down all the trees is bad” prepare to be disappointed) was so two dimensional (haw!) and dumb he made Arnold Swartzenegger’s Mr. Freeze from Batman and Robin look like Heath Ledger’s Joker from the Dark Knight. No complexity, no motivation besides being evil for money, and his complex plan to stop the heroes is more or less “chase those guys”. Ironically the villain from Despicable Me was pretty cool. I don’t know what happened.
Finally this story (and most of the other decisions) reeks of “design by committee”, which makes sense as this film has not one but two directors (Chris Renald-Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, No Time for Nuts and Kyle Balda-Despicable Me, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc.). It seems like each director had ideas of how to cram as much as possible into the movie and see what aspect rose to the top. There is a strong divide between the chacacters created by Dr. Suess (Ted, the Once-ler, and the Lorax) and the characters created to take a 30 minute story and pad it out to 86 minute (Mr. O’Hare, Audrey, and the entire rest of the cast). Other things are tacked on to the script like the writer was the architect in charge of the Winchester Mystery House. Need to appeal to more kids? Let’s through in some snowboarding for no reason. Not enough excitement? How about some random axe blades for even less reason than the snowboarding? Teeny boppers? Zac Efron and Taylor Swift should pull in their soft sheep-like brains. The list goes on and had I reviewed this the morning after seeing is as per usual I could probably list more.
Anyway, the story is of Ted (Zac Efron-17 Again, High School Musical 1-3. Wow. Pretty much everything he has done except for a couple episodes of Robot Chicken bugs me. I think I found a new actor to hate) lives in Thneed-Ville, a town comprised entirely of plastic including the trees and bushes. The cars are all giant and ridiculous (think of Gru’s car from Despicable Me with a bright and colorful paint job and less fins or spikes), the architecture a failed attempt to 3D render the buildings from the book, and since there are no trees around everyone buys air from Mr. O’Hare, who delivers it in Sparklets jugs (if you listen carefully you can hear your kids grades in science slip a notch right about then). He is in love with the girl across the street Audrey (Taylor Swift-Hannah Montana the Movie, Valentine’s Day, Jonas Brothers the 3D Experience. I just looked at some pictures of her and there is something really off putting in her facial expressions. It’s like she’s looking at you through a worm hole from another dimension) who tells him about trees, which apparently everyone has forgotten about. She says she would sex up (I mean marry) anyone who brought her a real tree. He embarks on a quest to find her a tree. Apparently the only person who knows what happened to all the trees is the Once-ler (Ed Helms-the Hangover, the Hangover Part 2, the Office), whom Ted finds by going on a journey out into a barren and polluted wilderness populated by tree stumps. The Once-ler opts to tell Ted the story of what happened to all the trees, which kind of drags on.
Basically the Once-ler started to cut down all the trees in order to make his invention, the Thneed (imagine if you wanted to knit a scarf for Cthulu). He cut one down and was at once confronted by the Lorax (Danny DeVito-Taxi, Get Shorty, Batman Returns, LA Confidential), a mystical orange creature who “speaks for the trees”. The Once-ler agrees to not cut down any trees but once his stereotypically southern hillbilly relatives show up they go slash and burn on them. While being told the story by the Once-ler Ted is confronted by Mr. O’Hare, who doesn’t want trees as they produce free air. The Once-ler gives Ted the last tree seed, at which point the movie devolves into a chase scene like Scooby Do doing a cameo on a Roadrunner cartoon.
Again, I don’t do my usual rating system for kids movies but instead base my recommendation on how the kids in the audience react. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t hear kids laughing their asses off. There was laughter, and some cool visuals for the kids, but nothing like I heard in any number of kids films from the last year. Even Tintin seemed to have kids enjoying it more. I think the problems for kids are it was too polished, too clean, too many attempts to make the movie appealing to adults (which for the most part failed IMO), and no kids really care about ecological recycling save the trees messages. However, I think the most disappointed viewers will be the adults who grew up reading Dr. Suess and were hoping to see a tribute to a great and classic teller of children’s stories rather than a punch in the stomach attempt to exploit a dead man’s work and run off into the night with as much of their money as possible. I saw a few people in the audience wearing Cat in the Hat hats and I don’t think they were too terribly pleased by the end of the film.
Should you take your kids to see it? Sure, why not? The scenes with the Lorax in it will entertain them and at the least shut them up for a couple hours. I don’t think they will necessarily be bored. However, in the lexicon of childhood movie memories this one will barely register and will not stand out 20 years from now as a warm remembrance, motivating them to buy it on brain wave or whatever media storage device we are using in 2032. See it as an adult? Not really worth it. Except for aspects of the story and the fact that it stars an orange furry guy the connection to Dr. Suess is tenuous at best, kind of killing the nostalgia and leaving you watching a film made for grade school children.
Thanks for reading, as always. Look for Project X tomorrow (I expect it to suck, but you never know). Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu (who wants to be my 146th follow?), or feel free to post a comment here or email me at email@example.com with any questions or suggestions. People asking for specific movies are a boon, as it helps me figure out which ones to review next. Talk to you soon.