It’s a little more difficult than usual to be objective about a film with such a clear, concise message as Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
This is particularly true when a film for children creates a discussion amongst adults. Much of Dr. Seuss’ work is a social statement (some say engineering) so it’s a question of the spirit of the message. Would the Lorax have approved of this updated version of his cautionary tale of living in balance with nature? Would Seuss? Do the kids? We say, see it twice. Then get the book, soundtrack, DVD, toy, clothes, etc.
HOWE: The Lorax is big, bright and colourful, well most parts. It has catchy songs and the 3-D works well.
TAYLOR: This film tells the story of the Lorax, more or less, based on the book. It’s the method that is different, not the spirit. The art is very Seussian, but his prose has been replaced with clever and rather acerbic songs. The two added characters are definitely in keeping with the original spirit of the story. Our hero Ted (Zac Efron), sets upon his quest because he wants to win the love of Audrey (Taylor Swift). In the original, the boy is already in the bleak wilderness, and there is no Thneedville, our new baddy is Mr. O’Hare, who sells fresh air (Rob Riggle). He only cares about profit, power, surveillance and control of his plastic, capitalist oasis.
HOWE: The message in this film isn’t subtle, it slaps you across the face with a humming fish, time and time again: We need to protect the planet from ourselves. I asked my four-year-old, did he enjoy this movie? He told me he didn’t like the monster (he meant Once-Ler) that cut down the trees. I did hear him laugh a couple of times, but overall I think The Lorax was too old for him. He was more interested in his Alvin and the Chipmunks cup I got him.
TAYLOR: There are many allusions to modern world problems in the film, even some religious overtones. The book has them too, but the film modernizes and extrapolates them. The Lorax (Danny DeVito) comes from a heavenly beam and is good. The Once-Ler wants to cash in at the expense of nature and this is bad. There is a positive message to end on, namely that there is hope and it starts with one real person planting one metaphorical seed: What is bad for the Earth is also bad for us. Pretty entertaining and acceptable propaganda.
HOWE: $70 million opening weekend. There’s your capitalism. It’s a modern tale of waste and greed, recycled well into a movie for kids. Now where can I buy my Thneed?
There were many children smiling when they left the theatre. One woman admitted to her husband that she had cried. No one spoke of trees.
Taylor gives The Lorax, 2.5 Truffula seeds out of five. Howe gives it 2.5 plastic towns out of five. The Lorax is currently playing at the PenMar Theatre.
Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are movie reviewers living in the Okanagan.