Posted in Film Commentary, Rants and Raves

Rants and Raves: The Lorax

I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you: this movie is terrible. It is quite possibly the worst movie I have seen all year. I used to personally boycott films made from Dr. Seuss books until someone showed me “Horton Hears a Who!” but now I remember why I held that stance in the first place. This movie takes everything that was good about the book and throws it away, leaving nothing to make the movie actually worth your time.

I’ll start with the first thing that sent me into an anxious tailspin, the “love” story. There is a huge problem in our culture that I like to describe as “nice guy” syndrome. Many boys and young men hold the belief that if they like a girl, all they have to do to get her to like them is do a few favors for them in return for their love and affection. This movie perpetuates this idea in the worst way, as the main character Ted does not actually care about the trees or the Once-ler at first, but instead goes to find out what happened to the trees because he thinks it will make the girl he’s crushing on like him. This is a movie intended for children, and thus it is teaching young boys that women are prizes given to them for doing “good deeds” and not equal people who should be respected.

There were plenty of negative stereotypes to go around in this film, but I suppose I will start with the stereotypical representation of the Once-ler family. Due to being the antagonists in a film about saving the environment, they are portrayed with Southern/Republican stereotypes such as being inbred, self-serving capitalists. While the Once-ler family was present in the book, they were not given any character development due to simply being needed to help run the Thneed factory. To add this characterization to otherwise very minor characters plants the association in children’s minds that southerners/ Republicans, no matter what their beliefs or background, are inherently bad. I’m all for bipartisanship when it comes to politics and don’t like the idea that someone having differing beliefs makes them inherently evil, but this film has no problem perpetuating that idea. One of the major political complaints I have heard over the last couple years has been that the two main parties in our country have no desire to work together, but movies like this plant the idea early on that it is impossible to do so, let alone a good idea.

This next point is relatively minor, but it did bother me to some extent. There is one barbaloot that is larger and stupider than the others. He is presented as comic relief by essentially being a stereotype of someone being fat and therefore stupid. Nobody’s weight gives any indication about what their IQ or educational background is, and this stereotype needs to go away. Since it was not a huge presence in the film, I will leave it at that.

Ok, now to the story itself. One of the reasons I appreciated “Horton Hears a Who!” was because of the care that was taken to keep the original storyline of the book. Yes, a few minor scenes were added to fill time, but overall the story from the book remained intact and relatively un-changed. This film, however, feels the need to create plot points that were not present in the original book to fill time. The most prominent case of this was with the O’Hare Air Company and The City of Thneedville. The story of The Lorax is dystopian enough with the destroyed environment present in the book, and thus there is no need to add an Orwellian dictatorship into the mix. Speaking of the Orwellian dictatorship in place, I should also mention how unoriginal the idea of bottled/canned air is. Does anyone remember Spaceballs?

These plot points are not necessary to the film. Even if the writers were to insist on keeping the “love” story, none of this extra dystopian  anti-corporate plot is necessary as it is all present in the original story from the book. All this shows is how incapable the writers were of extending the original storyline and keeping the message of the book present in the film.

As I said before, this movie is horrible. I would not recommend it to anyone, whether they loved Dr. Seuss or not. All I could imagine while watching this film was Dr. Seuss rolling and screaming in his grave, wondering how anyone from his estate could let something so shallow get made from his work. Please, respect Ted Geisel’s memory and do not see this film.


7 thoughts on “Rants and Raves: The Lorax

  1. …Did you even consider that maybe they have southern accents, because the Onceler family had southern accents IN THE ORIGINAL LORAX CARTOON? The cartoon that dr seuss was a big part in creating himself when he was alive…?

    Go to 06:34 at this video and tell me this family doesn’t have an accent:

    You thinking that this choice in accent has to do with american politics reflects more on you than the film itself.

    Now while I do think that they could have handled the story better, I accept the fact that they had to add in something to make the movie itself longer than the simple cartoon. To me, it was an okay film, not the best, but really not the worst either. Definitely could have handled the dystopian elements and love story better.

    What really bothers me about your review is this though:

    ” All I could imagine while watching this film was Dr. Seuss rolling and screaming in his grave, wondering how anyone from his estate could let something so shallow get made from his work. Please, respect Ted Geisel’s memory and do not see this film.”

    Do you even know who helps produce these movies? Audrey Geisel, his widow. If you seriously think that he’s rolling over in his grave over something his wife is doing to keep his legacy and works alive in the public eye, I have nothing to say to you. Here is an article on the subject if you don’t believe me:

    1. I’m sorry you and I disagree on the merit of this film, but we are entitled to hold differing opinions. During his life, Dr. Seuss was very reluctant to have his books made into movies and yes, he did work closely with the companies that made the cartoon versions in order to make sure they did not change the nature of his books. That is exactly what this film is doing, and completely changing the story does not honorably present his legacy to a new generation. Audrey Geisel only has so much control over what happens to his works once the rights to the story have been handed over, so I hardly see her giving Universal Pictures permission to make this film a legitimate reason to say he would be happy with the representation, even if Chris Meledandri did earn her trust when he worked on Horton Hears A Who!

      As for the accents, even in that clip you presented it is not made obvious that the Once-ler family acts the way they do because of their upbringing, whereas the new film turns the family into caricatures of Southern stereotypes that go even further than “having a southern accent”. You have the questionably inbred twins, the overweight aunt, the pushy mother, etc. Presenting the Once-ler family so stereotypically does speak to modern politics, as these images call negative imagery to mind, especially with the stereotype that Southern people are white trash who don’t believe in global warming. If you think presenting the family in this way is not a caricature of modern perception, that is fine, you are entitled to your opinion.

      I am just a person with a WordPress blog. I do not make money off my reviews, I do them for fun. I did study films in college, so I am used to interpreting what I see in films and making arguments about them, but these reviews are strictly my personal opinions. These reviews are not meant to be the last and only interpretation someone reads before deciding to see a film, they are simply my feelings about the work in question. It just so happens that my feelings about this film are that no one should waste their time on something so poorly done.

      1. Yes I know we are entitled to holding different opinions, but I wanted to make sure that yours is an informed one. Far be it from me to say that you can’t like the movie, as that wasn’t the point I was trying to make at all.

        Yes, the family is presented in the 2012 movie with a more negative southern stereotype than in the cartoon, but I don’t think the choice was made to point at american politics as you presented it to be. Like I said, more likely the choice came from the original cartoon.

        If you’re going to pick at political themes, maybe the commentary on capitalism itself would have been a better choice.

        And while you and I may think many choices made in the film were handled badly, to say that Dr Seuss would be “rolling and screaming in his grave” is a bit much, don’t you think? You asked how “anyone from his estate could let something so shallow get made from his work,” and I told you how. His widow let them. She is the person from his estate that you are bewailing. Be more careful in who you point fingers at next time.

        Don’t take this as me being confrontational myself, I’m just adding extra commentary to your initial review. Just as you are only a person with a wordpress blog, I too am only a person giving my opinion on your review. I told you what bothered me, so I guess take it for what you will.

        I would like to remind you that I did say I thought the movie was sub-par myself, but I suppose that was lost in what I had to say about your critique in and of itself.

        Thank you for replying in a rational manner yourself though. Much appreciated.

      2. I understand that you didn’t think the film was spectacular, I was just hoping to explain why I felt this way about the film.

        To be fair, this segment of my blog is titled “Rants and Raves” because it is based on my initial reaction to a film. On my other reviews, I spend an entire week watching the film, analyzing it, finding screenshots, etc. My “rants and raves” posts are intended to show a different perspective based on my initial feelings about a film. Thus, if anything I say sounds extreme it is based on an extreme reaction. I thought that was clear by the title of the segment, but I will try to make it more clear in the future.

    2. To be frank, I don’t think that looking back on the original work as a source material excuses the political maneuvers the film is making. Whether it is wholly original to the film, derives from the original animation, or even from the book, there’s something problematic about the choice to basically identify a certain region with a certain behavior pattern, particularly when this is done in a way that relies on the simplistic association of south = greedy big business. To be fair, this isn’t a new idea, or something unique to this film; it goes back at least into the 1800s. But anyone making a film should be responsible for the political message it’s sending out, and this movie perpetuates a very specific regional stereotype.

      Also, I can’t exactly agree with the idea that it’s more important to keep the works of an author alive than to try to stick to the intent of those works. I don’t personally know that much about Dr. Seuss’s opinions, but it does seem to me that the way this film is constructed undercuts the ideas most important to the original book–namely, that these issues concerning the alternate needs of environment and industry are complex. By creating a simplistic good vs bad story, it takes away from the actual social criticism intended here.

  2. The whole point of being able to review things is to simply state an opinion. I wholly agree with Howell in her assessment of this movie.

  3. While the movie is funnier than the book, the drawback of this modernized version is that it loses the timeless quality of the story on the page. Still, I had a good time and it will definitely resonate well with plenty of adults and just about every kid imaginable. Great review Howell.

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