Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

Dr. Seuss’ tale of environmentalism is given the big budget Hollywood treatment with this re-imagining from Illumination Entertainment. His parable of conservation was already pretty simple in the extreme, so creating full length material from the straightforward narrative is a bit of a challenge. Screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul try to remedy that with a more complicated story and additional personalities. The people in Thneed-Ville live in a corporately run town with nary a tree or plant to be found. It’s a synthetic, pre-fabricated habitat. Young 12 year old Ted is smitten with older high schooler Audrey. She longs to see a real living tree and this provides Ted’s reason for venturing out from within the safe city walls to see if he can locate one. All of this is extraneous to the original fable which began in a barren wasteland with no mention of this alternate, plasticky town. Also added to the mix are songs with music by John Powell and lyrics by Cinco Paul. Many start with the strumming of an authentic guitar and then launch into a synthesized reproduction of music. The tunes are perfectly constructed examples of the most defiantly non-organic product. Apparently digitally enhanced voices and the lack of genuine instruments is an irony that I think was lost on the filmmakers.

The Lorax is a mixed bag. There are some bright spots. The animation is vivid and there are a trio of fish that sing in unison with amusing high pitched vocals.  They are memorable. They’re reminiscent of character types in early Max Fleischer shorts. But the Lorax himself, which should have been a tragic figure, is an annoying pain every time he shows up here with a lecture. The movie is a product of our modern age. I’ll admit I was amused by the irony of a film warning against the dangers of consumerism in a movie that totally represents that mentality. The 3D computer graphics are oddly inappropriate for a story about going back to basics. The script is like a result of some focus group trying hard to be hip. Phrases like “You rule Grandma!” or “I know, right?!” are so distinctly 2012 that they betray the timeless quality of the original message. Dr. Seuss adaptations have been historically difficult. The Cat in the Hat remains one of the worst aberrations of the source material ever made. Yet these are the same scribes that adapted Horton Hears a Who! and that was rather charming. The Lorax isn’t a horrible picture. It’s a vibrant, colorful spectacle that is pleasant enough. The pro-environment moral is well intentioned. But the simplicity of the book is missing. In its place is a heavy handed tale of corporate greed that feels labored and somewhat joyless.

19 Responses to “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax”

  1. Andy rothstein Says:

    Mark, brilliantly written and to the point. However you were generous with your stars.


    • I vacillated between 2 ½ and 3 stars. I finally decided I was sufficiently entertained while watching the film to give it 3, but I totally understand anyone who hates the film.


  2. I thought it was just…..cute. However, I did like the songs. The fish and the bears were cute too. I always fall for the big sad eyes.


  3. I’m surprised you even saw this, but I’m glad that you saw it on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, of all possible days. In compiled reviews, I’ve heard it’s great, but when I look at reviews individually, it seems people are saying it’s just fine. I haven’t seen Cat in the Hat, I hated the Grinch, and I found Horton a bit pleasing; I’m going to see this probably next weekend, and I’m going to hope for something that’s not as God awful as the Grinch, and maybe a little better than Horton. Great review, man.


    • The Lorax isn’t great. I was disappointed. Horton was better, but this far surpasses Cat in the Hat or The Grinch. I hated both of those adaptations as well.


      • I would sure hope it surpasses the Grinch. I’m just now noticing the reviews to go downhill (it takes a while for Flixster to update for whatever reason :/), but I’m still expecting it to be somewhat satisfying.


  4. Nice review. I haven’t seen the film but I completely understand how you felt.


  5. This seems like a good movie to take my little brother too. Nice review as always.


  6. I’m really excited to see The Lorax; I loved Dr Seuss when I was younger and adored the teaser trailer when it came out. It’s a shame that the lorax himself is a little annoying though. Great review!


  7. Hi Mark, thanks for another expertly written review! I somehow seem to have missed out on the Dr Seuss fables as a kid. From your writing it is very apparent that the source material was close to your heart.

    I performed a bit of research on the Lorax and having just reading your review, the adaptation appears to be bordering on being a betrayal!


    • Because the actual book is only something like 20 odd pages long, they had to flesh out the story in order to make it it a full length feature. The movie ends up being rather different in feel from the uncomplicated and singular intent of the source.

      The biggest betrayal happened outside of the actual film. The Lorax was used recently to shill the Mazda CX-5, a car of all things. That kind of crass commercialization is a complete sellout of Dr. Seuss’ original creation. See attached video below:


  8. Another disappointing one. Too bad. Excellent review as always Mark!


  9. Just saw this. I liked it a bit. I thought at times the animation was beautiful; other times it just sucked. Here’s my review:


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