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.