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SDG Reviews 'The Lorax' (8622)

Middling cartoon tries to honor Dr. Seuss's eco-fable, but can't capture its heart.

03/02/2012 Comments (30)
Universal Pictures

– Universal Pictures

In a wasteland
Where Smurfy-smog hangs in the air,
And rodents bust rhymes to a hip-hop beat blare,
And poop jokes are common and smart stories rare …
Is the Dead-End Family Film Street.

Broken family debris litters the grasses
And the smell of innuendo is thick as molasses.
Even Christmas and Easter are stained and debased
Yet parents and kids still throng to this waste.

It isn’t all Grickle-grass and Kitty Galore.
A few bright spots crop up for those who want more.
There are Pixar-y patches
And Muppet-y snatches …
Even Horton the elephant managed to score.

But … The Lorax? From Despicable Me’s fledgling crew?
There are so many ways they could land in the stew.
It’s a classic, but preachy, provocative stuff.
One misstep could knock this film flat on its duff.

Well … its heart’s in the right place. Give the filmmakers that.
This isn’t The Grinch or The Cat in the Hat.
It’s not outright ugly, though it slips off the rails.
It wants to be decent. It tries. But it fails.

They biggered the story … not always lamely.
An opening number kicks things off gamely.
“At the far end of town,” the land’s blighted and bleak,
But in the center of Thneed-Ville, it’s shiny and chic!

In Thneed-Ville, everything’s plastic and new,
And nobody thinks about gloppity goo
Or smogulous smoke, and where it all goes.
What’s outside the city walls nobody knows …

…‘til a young lad named Ted goes in search of a tree
Inspired by a dream girl whose name is Audrey.
(The same names as Dr. Geisel and the missus …
Do the characters grow up to be the Seusseses?)

Ted lives with his mother and grandmother too.
(And where is his dad? I haven’t a clue.)
So far, it’s not half bad … but right when the plot
Catches up to the book, it goes south on the spot.

The strange, spooky mood of the fable is tossed.
The Once-ler’s aura of mystery is lost.
His Whisper-ma-Phone serves no purpose at all
Since he talks loud and clear, with no gurgling drawl.

And they’ve whitewashed his back story! The old Once-ler’s shame
Is expunged as we learn he was never to blame
For the sad state of things. He chopped down just one tree!
The real villains, it seems, are … his bad family.

Young “Oncey”’s a hipster now, soulful and slammin’,
Trusty ax at his side — the stringed kind, for jammin’.
Cruelly mocked by his folks as he flies from the nest …
I’m not making this up, I swear. Why would I jest?

And the Lorax? He’s silly and sometimes perturbing.
His actions at times are somewhat disturbing.
Casting Oncey, asleep, down the river one night —
Though he means him no harm, it’s still not all right.

There’s no sense of pacing or of rising action.
The book’s key events suffer major contraction:
In one brief montage, the trees are all down,
The skies choked with smog, the waters deep brown.

There’s no time for the Lorax to protest the effects
Of the felling of trees and the things that come next …
No time for departures of Truffula-fauna —
Swomee-Swans, Bar-ba-loots and Humming-Iguana —
Till it’s over and done. It takes that little time.
(Yes, they’re fish, not iguanas … I needed the rhyme.)

The rest of the tale is formula pap:
Evil company led by villainous chap …
A tired chase scene to close out the show …
And a final song wrapping it up with a bow.

The consumerist satire and all is just fine,
But adding religion just might cross the line.
There’s a brief, shallow prayer in the opening song,
And a singing nun joins the Thneed-groupie throng.
The slur may be slight, but it doesn’t belong.

It could have been worse. How much worse it could be!
But is that enough? Not for my kids and me.
It’s no Despicable Me, sad to say.
Perhaps someone should lift this Lorax away.

Since 2000, Steven D. Greydanus has reviewed
every Dr. Seuss movie in rhyming verse.
Read them all at DecentFilms.com.

Filed under animation, dr. seuss, environmentalism, family films, sdg reviews