The Lorax

I saw Dr. Seuss' The Lorax on Friday, and I don't regret the decision.

That's not a glowing recommendation, I know. It's my favorite movie of the year, but that's ALSO not a glowing recommendation given what I've seen so far.

The short version: the film's flaws seem to be compromises in message, and it's strengths are brilliant use of medium. The story plays straight up the middle.

So let's talk about the message. In the book, The Lorax visits the Once-ler three times, and explains to him that chopping down the trees is starving the barbaloots, that the factory smoke is choking the birds, and the sludge is gumming up the fish so they can't sing anymore. We get a sense that things are connected, and for a children's book written in 1972, that's not a bad educational start.

In the movie that entire sequence, from just after the first few chopped trees all the way to the last one, is a single musical montage, and the sense of connectedness isn't really there beyond "trees gone, animals leave." 

The song runs about as long as that bit of the book if you're reading aloud, which is why it seems to me that more could have been made of that. The animal characters in the movie were pretty well done, and could have told that story themselves -- hungry barbaloots, gummy hummingfish, and smothered swan-thingies-whose-name-I-forget.

I was interested to see that harvesting truffula tufts without chopping trees down was put forth as a solution in the film. In fact (spoiler alert!) we see that it's the Once-ler's horrible Once-ler family who pressure him to start up the deforestation. Granted, he goes along with it, and takes responsibility for the biggering and biggering and biggering, but it made for a nice bit of character depth.

Ultimately, though, if I have complaints with the film it's that it didn't drive the message as effectively as it could have. For a tree spokesman, The Lorax went kind of easy on the guy with the axes. Why did the filmmakers pull back on the message? Were they afraid that people would go see The Lorax and not EXPECT to be preached to about the importance of natural forests?

Still,  I had fun. I suspect that I'll continue to derive joy from the film as I discuss it with friends (that's shorthand for "I could keep writing but I'm going to stop soon.") Also, I really loved the art. They got the Seussian architecture and palette right, including the new stuff, and the 3D added to my enjoyment of the vertigo-inducing design of Thneedville. 

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