Saturday, March 3, 2012

Guest Review: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Hot on the heels of the first post comes the…second post.  You can tell I’m a writer.  This time the movie was easy to see because I could bring my kid.  In fact I took the kid, the wife, and the mom (mine) all out to see The Lorax.  Here are a couple things to note before we get started.  One: I never fully judge a movie until after I have seen it.  I know this is not some kind of major prophetic idea but my reasoning is that there is no universal standard for judging a movie.  I try to see what the movie wants to be then see if it succeeds.  I mention this because Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is not the typical animated kids movie that we have been getting lately.  It doesn’t work the same way Shrek and the Toy Story films do.  In short this movie is not very funny.  Not unless you are high or seven.  I dare not speak more, quickly to the review!

What I liked about the film:
The animation on this one is great.  There were some really great scenes with bizarre Seuss-like products that will always make us smile.  The design of the main town and all of the fun plastic trees were a solid part of what made the movie work.

The Writer/Story
Of course the main story was written by Dr. Seuess but the screenplay was penned by the team that brought you Despicable Me, Hop, and (this one surprised me) The Santa Clause 2.  It surprised me because I am frankly amazed that anyone from the Santa Clause movies, beyond the first one, have been able to get work.  Looks like the economy is really turning around, thank you oh gods of money.  While the speaking parts of this movie worked fine they were not up to the standard of other recent animated works.  There were little jokes here and there but not for the parents.  This one was just for the kids.  Not just entertainment-wise either.  This flick got a little preachy.  The Seuss book is a little preachy too but this movie pushes it further.  The basic story of cutting down all the trees is bad and in the music of movie we hear darker messages for the kids.  The Once-ler sings a song about how it’s ok to hurt the trees and then rhymes that line with “when you’re helping the economy”.  Now I’m as lefty as most of the actors out there but even I felt like this went out of bounds a bit.  Anyways.

The Director 
Co-Directors who also worked on Despicable Me were along for this one too.  In this area I thought the whole thing looked great.  In fact this is where most of the jokes came from.  Little sight gags to poke at this or that character and background jokes of people getting smacked by random things is always fun for kids.  I just wish there had been more for the grown-ups.  Grandma fell asleep ten minutes in and didn’t wake up until the credits.  She leaned over and asked “What’d I miss?”  I honestly told her “not much.”

The Actors
This is another area where the film stumbled.  Not because the cast was bad but because we have all gotten used to the cast being full of great performances by recognizable voices.  I was able to pick Ed Helms out as well as Danny Devito, but I had to IMDB the villain.  Turns out it was Rob Riggle, meh.  The one holdout in this category was Betty White and as per her contract with Satan no one is allowed to say anything bad about her sooooooo…

What I didn't like about the film:
The Music
While the songs and melodies were altogether ok, many of the lyrics became overly preachy and classless.  The story is already full of tree hugging hippie rhetoric and then when we throw some occupy wallstreet stuff in there too it just gets over the top.  This is a bummer too because the guy who did the music, John Powell, is fresh off his Oscar nom for the song from Rio.  Although to be fair how much of an accomplishment is it to be nominated in a category that only had two nominees?

The Verdict:
It’s just ok.  But if we are being fair and comparing it to all the other great animated features being made lately then we have to call it crap.  My parents would say “it’s cute” which in my mind makes it crap.

Contributed by Ben Weddell.  Creative Director of Aberrant Behaviors, Chico, CA.


Tony Sayegh said...

I was seriously doubting this film from the first trailer. Ben, you reaffirmed my theory. It's too bad too, because Despicable Me is one of my favorite animated films. Dr. Seuss is turning in his grave I'm sure.

Dan O. said...

When all is said and done, The Lorax has plenty of ups and downs when it comes to added plot and characters, but it's still a nice family feature nonetheless. However, the right-wing message may start to get a little preachy at times. Good review. Give mine a look when you get the chance.