The Lorax

Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax” is a charming and unique animated movie. Patterned after the inimitable stylings of Dr Seuss, the visual world of the Lorax is beautiful to behold. Colorful, charming, idiosyncratic… it has a fresh and appealing creative vision to offer audiences.

The story within may be a little slow for today’s children, but it’s got charisma and humor to spare. At times it comes dangerously close to being preachy with its environmentalist, anti-capitalist messages… but overall it’s an entertaining family film that feels original and unique amongst the annual onslaught of animated offerings.

“The Lorax” revolves around a boy named Ted’s quest to find an actual, living tree, in order to impress the girl he’s smitten by. The two (voiced by Zak Efron and Taylor Swift) live in a town that boasts a completely artificial environment. Fake flowers, trees, grass, etc. Purified air is sold by the town’s tycoon. Everyone is happy. Even if it’s just because they don’t know what they’re missing.

When Ted begins to investigate the possibility of finding a tree to impress his girl, the boy has to sneak out of town and into the barren wastes in search of the reclusive “Once-ler” (Ed Helms). When he finds him, the Once-ler begins to share his tale, and via flashbacks we’re shown how the area – once a place flourishing with natural beauty – was stripped to the bone and became the inhospitable environs it is today. In his youth, the Once-ler was an inventor and entrepreneur, and he came upon this forrested area to harvest trees as materials for his goods.

Of course, he didn’t count on the Lorax.

The Lorax (Danny DeVito) is the diminutive, mustachioed creature of myth that appears when the tress are threatened. He warns the Once-ler about his current course of action, and threatens him with a curse. Of course, the Once-ler isn’t listening.

While the Once-ler tells his story via flashback, our hero has a present-day problem in his hometown of Thneed-Ville. You see, the town’s air tycoon, Mr O’Hare, has learned of his plans to plant a tree, and seeing as Trees make fresh air for free, he tries to foil Ted’s efforts by any means neccessary. These parallel plots tell “The Lorax”‘s environmentally friendly story. Via the flashbacks, the Lorax warns, threatens and tries to thwart the Once-ler, while in the current day, Ted tries to plant a tree in spite of the “Big Brother” power of the O’hare Air Co.

The message of the movie, though an admirable one certainly, does get delivered a tad heavy-handedly at times. Think sledgehammer to the head heavy-handed. I also found the musical elements (there are a handful of your standard animated movie musical numbers) to be… unispiring. Bland. There was also a moment or two where I wondered if the pacing of the movie was too slow for today’s kids.

Those are all minor nitpicks within my overall assessment, however. The film contains a vibrant, gorgeous, animated world. It’s very reminiscent of Seuss’ works – there’s nary a straight line in the entire movie. Said world is populated with oddly proportioned humans and strange creatures, singing fish and marshmallow loving bears. It’s a wonderfully imaginative movie with tons of humor, and a beating heart. Danny DeVito and Betty White both add a lot of fun via their voice work. And even though it’s not exactly delivered in a nuanced manner, the underlying message of environmental conservationism is an admirable one.

I think it’s a unique and memorable animated film. An enjoyable treat for families and children of all ages.

A-

51 thoughts on “The Lorax

  1. It was funny last night. I had forgotten this was coming out, so I told the GF I didn’t want to see anything. She was secretly trying to ask me to see this, when secretly I remembered that I wanted to see it too. We didn’t get to see it last night, but hopefully today. Glad to hear it’s as magical as the trailer made it out to be.

    • I hope you like it, I know I did. I didn’t quite leave as enthralled and enchanted as I had hoped to be, but I had super high hopes. It was a great flick.

      Circle back or hit me up on twitter and let me know what you think!

    • Oh, you Scrooge! You HATED Despicable Me? Damn, man! LOL. Well… you may not like this one then, honestly. I mean, not that they’re totally equal or anything, but… your taste in animated far has now been called into question! :D LOL

      • I actually am pretty critical of animated kid’s films, more so than most. I love the Toy Story films, Wall-E, and The Incredibles. After that, I really like Up, Monster’s Inc, Peter Pan and Snow White. But other then that, I find most are either average or just plain bad.

  2. The musical numbers and the presentation of the environmental message seem to be the common complaints I have read. How exactly is it handled that makes it so heavy-handed? I’m just curious haha ;)

    • It’s practically a constant, for one thing. They rarely move far from it. Secondly, they’re absolutely outright with it. As opposed to showing trees get cut down, and then the aftermath, and allowing the viewer to connect the dots and infer that cutting down trees is bad… this movie will insert a musical number telling you how greed led to the trees dying which led to the world being miserable. With no mixed words. LOL

  3. Ah, man, you should have made this review rhyme like a Dr. Seuss story!

    You’ve given this a higher score than some of the reviews I have read, but I’m still getting the impression that I should stay away. Usually I flock to anything that Fox News hates, but if it’s too slow for today’s kids, I’m thinking it will be too slow for me too.

  4. This film gets the Squirts’s seal of approval. In fact, she has already declared it to be her “favorite of all the Dr. Seuss movies”. With that, I’ll have to disagree with it being too slow for kids. Don’t get me wrong. I’m certain it wouldn’t keep the twins attention for 90 minutes but, they’re 2.5… nothing keeps their attention. But for a 5 year old (mine, at least) I’d say it’s just fine. As to as the musical numbers and heavy handed “message”, I’m with you 100%….. I tend to lean pretty far to the left but I completely understand and dare I say (kind of in a small way) agree with Fox’s critique……… I agree with Fox……. I think I need a shower.

    • Yeah, it’s crazy, but I found myself agreeing with them too. I actually could see their point. LOL. I’m all for kids movies teaching kids things, but this was practically leftist indoctrination. :D

      Glad the Squirt approved. Looking forward to the full debrief!

  5. I enjoyed the film (got a few more films to see today but then I’ll get my review up) although I wasn’t a big fan of the musical numbers, save for maybe two. Otherwise though I was pleasantly surprised with Ed Helms and Danny DeVito acting and the animation is BRILLIANT

    • Yeah, I have to say, the animation on this alone is worth recommending the flick to people. It looks so freaking good. And very much like something out of a Seuss book. Creative… you know? Not your standard Pixar type stuff.

      Good luck with your review :D

  6. Generally I can’t stand preachy environmentalism and anti-capitolism in children’s movies, but for some reason I let Dr. Seuss slide. That’s probably because he doesn’t try to hide it and that is just part of who he is. I loved reading The Lorax as a kid so I am somewhat excited to see it, though I doubt I will get to the theater for it.

    • “Generally I can’t stand preachy environmentalism and anti-capitolism in children’s movies,”

      Heh. Then you’re in trouble here Phil. Let me tell you… wait til you see it and you’ll remember that I said that. :D LOL

  7. Having loved “Despicable Me”, I was very much looking forward to “The Lorax” and was not disappinted. I loved it. Agree with you on the musical numbers and the heavy handed preaching, but the artwork was fantastic and there was a lot of humor. Especially loved the one TV theme the fish sang. (Won’t spoil it for other by saying what show). Before the movie, there was a trailer for “Despicable Me 2″ coming out in 2013. I’ll be there.

      • Yeah, that was great with the fish. LOL. And Despicable me was great too, even though it was essentially just a clip with the minions showing off 3d. But I thought it was fun, too.

        I’m probably more at an 8/8.5 on it, but it was a really solid flick, a lot of fun. I’m not sure I’ll rank it up with my all time favorite animated movies, but… As far as 2012 goes, its off to a good start!

  8. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one, Fogs. I know you were really looking forward to it. I was never a huge Seuss fan, but it’s good to hear that this doesn’t sabotage his name.

  9. Watched this last night — one of the few times I’ve seen something on opening night, but hey, with a $5 off coupon I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to be “current” for once. (When I got home, I went to IMDb to start looking up voices for my own review, and it was still showing the “awaiting 5 votes” message — I’ve never been one of the first five votes on a movie before! :D)

    Good film, lots of fun, and you’re right about it being a very good-looking film. Definitely worth watching in 3D. And yes, very heavy-handed. But as I said in my review, that’s The Lorax for you. If it wasn’t heavy-handed, it’d be deviating heavily from the book. As it is, I think this is one Mr. Geisel would have approved of.

      • Thanks for linking my review; always appreciate it.

        Yeah, I hadn’t really read the books since I was a kid either (no kid of my own, so I don’t exactly go re-reading Dr. Seuss often.) But I did track down the text of The Lorax after watching the movie, just to see if it was as close as my memory suggested. It’s as close to being word for word as it could be.

  10. I am excited it got a good review from you! It actually opened at the “cheap seat” theater here! That’s an extra bonus for us!

      • Yeah, they have it for 2 weeks, then they get The Hunger Games…… Not sure how they got those two bids….but I am all about supporting the little guy! This particular theater was about to close so this couple saved it…… They still come out personally to announce the movie, welcome everyone etc. it’s really nice.

      • Awesome. I hope people respond to that.

        Sounds like a place where you might have a chance of people NOT checking their cell phones during a flick. Or is such a thing even possible nowadays?

      • Just judging by own experiences, the cell phone usage may be going back down. Cinemark (where I usually go) has gotten just one hair short of being outright nasty to cell phone users in their pre-movie warning. They flat out say that they will remove people who use cell phones. So far it seems to be working, and I for one am in favor of being blunt about it. People didn’t seem to get the message when it was phrased nicely.

      • No cell phone problems here…..They make it such a personal experience, no one would want to hurt the owners feelings by not following the rules.

        Get this: We have had popcorn delivered to our seats because it wasn’t ready, and they didn’t want us to miss the previews. :)

      • My god! Sounds like heaven! LOL

        And Morgan, I wish my theatre would get a little nastier. Its freaking cell phone light city.

        People are good about turning the noise on them off, I’ll give them that. But now we need action against the lights, too.

  11. Glad you scored this so high!

    Yes, I coulda done without the environmentalist heavyhandedness and a couple of the musical numbers, but man what a perfect cast. esp Danny Devito!

    Still, a very fun film to watch. I enjoyed it too.

    • I dont mind the musical numebrs, I just wish they were better.

      Couldnt tell you a single word of one of them. Thats not a good sign. Should be memorable somehow…

      And yeah, DeVito is perfect :D

  12. I don’t know. This looks too kiddie-oriented for me. One of my biggest disappointment with US animations is that studios see animated features as something for kids. In contrast, Japanese animations usually don’t make that distinction and you get more mature work like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke because of that.

    • Uh. Well. Yeah. I suppose it certainly is aimed at the younger deomgraphic. I personally can still enjoy that stuff, but if its something you “hold against” your typical US Animated fare, this is certainly not going to be any exception…

    • There are a few zingers slipped in there for adults, but yes, this is aimed more at kids than adults.

      I think part of the problem with US studios aiming animations to kids is that the public has the same expectations on the whole (even with Japanese animation, it’s hard to get people around the “what do you mean, it’s not for kids?” factor). Ralph Bakshi did several animated features for adults — some of which very much for adults — and nearly every one bombed and is a cult classic at best. Granted, a large part of that is because they were mostly awful (though American Pop is worth watching), but it’s helped to make a situation where nobody wants to be the next Bakshi. Don Bluth’s Titan A.E. was more of a twenty-something film (though still kid safe I don’t think it was aimed at them), and personally I thought it was fun and well done — but it was still a flop.

      • Stuff doesnt need to totally leave kids behind in my opinion… I dont want all my animation to be “Waltz with Bashir” (although that flick rocks), but there should be a happy middle ground somewhere. Kids pick up on things pretty well, you dont have to give them baby talk.

        Not that they are here…

    • I cant say that Ive read it, although Im sure I read them all as a kid.

      My understanding is the whole “Current Day” scene is an add on? Gotta cut them some slack I think Sam, Seuss books arent exactly feature length material. So if theyre gonna make one, theyre going to have to add or stretch… one or the other.

  13. This is probably the first 3D animated kids movie I’ve seen in a long, long time that’s actually geared toward kids at the expense of adults. It’s broken down to just above the most simple dictation, it’s fun and colorful, there are neat characters who do funny things, and the messages are spelled out pretty clearly. I don’t think that’s a bad thing but I think it means the movie will have a harder time playing to adults who want to take their kids to see it; they’ll probably be a bit bored or just disinterested while watching it.

    And that’s okay. If the kids get it, then Renaud and Balda have done their job. Not that The Lorax has nothing for adults but it’s not a film that panders to the grown-up audience (a.k.a. the paying customers) at the expense of telling a great story. Dreamworks is often guilty of doing just that with obnoxious, dissonant pop culture references that grate against their narratives. So I applaud the directors for avoiding that trap, even if they don’t strike the Pixar balance of being friendly to kids and adults alike.

    I think what moves me most about the movie is how quickly it’s been politicized and vilified by right-wing commentators. Lou Dobbs is kind of an asshole in general, regardless of his politics, but arguing that the film indoctrinates children and teaches them about the evils of capitalism is reaching. I get how someone could make that judgment on the film– it’s easy to do if you haven’t watched it for yourself, and I somehow doubt that Dobbs watches anything other than tapes of himself with his pants down. Here’s the thing though– Renaud’s and Balda’s film is far more tolerant of the industrialist than the book. Really.

    Look at it this way– we actually get to know the Once-ler, and he’s not a bad guy at all. He’s misguided and misled and easily bullied into doing the wrong thing by outside influences, but at his heart he’s human, and I think that that’s important. To accept the premise that the film is blatantly against capitalism, I think we’d have to see the Once-ler as more of an O’Hare character, and O’Hare’s such a nothing compared to the Once-ler in terms of sheer wanton destruction that he barely registers until he starts actively doing things to stymie Ted. But the Once-ler’s a well-rounded character, and we feel bad for him even though he did such an awful thing by consuming the entire forested valley for his own personal gain. Hell, he even had a method of harvesting Thneed materials that was fairly eco-friendly. He’s not a monster at all.

    And even if he was the ideals the film espouses aren’t really liberal or conservative. First and foremost, conservatism isn’t about consumption for consumption’s sake, which is what the film’s heavies do. Secondly, environmentalism isn’t a strictly liberal concept; apart from the fact that there are environment-friendly conservatives, there are DEFINITELY armchair environmentalists on the left who say one thing but do another entirely. I see no need to polarize the film around any liberal-conservative dichotomy, especially since the film’s messages– don’t pollute, don’t waste, don’t be greedy, don’t break your promises, don’t take what isn’t yours, stand up for your beliefs– are pretty universal. The only reason the film is being centered around left and right ideologies is that we’ve all come to associate the practices and philosophies here with one party or another, which I think speaks poorly to our country’s political dialogue.

    Anyways. It’s a kid’s film. Kids will probably like it. Adults might struggle. I did really enjoy the voice acting, particularly DeVito and Helms, and I was impressed to see how much the animation of Illumination Entertainment had improved from Despicable Me (which itself looks quite good). One thing they do really well– little end pieces or intro bits where the supporting critters do something amusing or wacky, like the fish that swallows the firefly and then chases the other fish around with his newly glowing eyes. I like those minor aside. They’re fun and diverting and they ensure something’s happening in almost every frame.

    Anyways I wrote a frigging novel here so I’m cutting myself off from writing anym

  14. Finally saw it last night. I never read the book…I didn’t even know it was a book until I read your review.

    I loved it visually! So creative, and whimsical like I jumped right into a Dr. Seuss book. Loveable characters too. (I’m with you on the fish…loved big fat brown bear too…..especially the hiking part…LOL)

    I didn’t mind the message…I see what you mean about not having to connect the dots.

    The disappointment for me (us) was the music. “The music was good but the words (to the songs) were stupid,” says my 17 year old who will sing along to just about anything even if it is a commercial jingle. She didn’t go home after Lorax singing the way she did when we saw The Muppets. Yes we are definitely jaded Muppet fans.

    So….all in all, we liked it well enough, but will I be running out to buy it on DVD? Probably not until it’s in the sale bin.

    A side note: When the owner came out to introduce the movie he says….”It’s a little chilly tonight, it will warm up a bit once I close the theater doors. But remember your physics: The theater is on a slant, and heat rises, so if you are cold, move to the back, if you are too warm, move up to the front…..hopefully after a a little musical chairs everyone will find their happy place before the movie starts. Also, the snack bar will remain open for 20 minutes more, but If you are still hungry in 30, and don’t see me, knock on the projector room door, and I will come down and make more popcorn. Enjoy the show!” — How is that for some small town love!

    • Thats still awesome. LOL. I hope you give that theatre lots of patronage and reward his coolness.

      I liked it well enough, but I think as its settling in, I’d probably be dropping its grade as opposed to raising it. I liked it I thought it was fun… but like you say, I dont imagine myself running out to buy it on DVD!

      And its sad about the tunes. They’re just… plain.

      • We try to go there as much as we can. Support the little guys. He has a decent lineup: Lorax, Hunger Games, 3 Stooges, then Avengers (2 week run times….I think 1 week in the summer…with 2 different movies at a time…one kid, 1 adult)

  15. Finally saw the movie. I really liked it. It kept right there with the message the book was saying but added a bunch of humor. The fat little bear eating the butter sticks, I named it Paula. And the fish doing the musical snippets, the Mission Impossible theme was funny. Overall, I do like how they took the story and twisted it around and actually put an engine to the Lorax story by having the trees return, showing the Once-Ler and Lorax. You kind of didn’t get the whole friendship part from the book. The movie made it more out to be his family (shareholders) as evil, more than himself.

    • On the last part there, I think the movie actually made industrialism out to be a bad thing. Regardless of who’s doing it.

      But cool man, I’m glad you liked it. I agree, it was very good. I liked it. It wasn’t the legendary animated effort I might have wished it would be, but it was still really good.

      And the fat bear cracked me up too. LOL. You really have it out for Ms. Deen don’t you?

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