The Lorax – 2012
Directed by Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Starring (voices) Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Betty White, Jenny Slate
Screenplay by Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul based loosley on The Lorax by Dr. Suess
What would children’s movie makers do without the corporations that cause so much grief in the world? There is a point midway through The Lorax where the guy who invented the Thneed (played with willful ignorance by Ed Helms) is presented on a magazine cover where the headline says “Too Big To Fail.” One can’t help but wonder what will happen to this crazy entrepreneur who chopped down trees because, well it was easier than harvesting the tops of them, so, like, they can be used again. You know, a renewable resource? This is something that companies have been doing for as long as they were interested in staying in business. Even the Once-Ler figured this out himself, but then changed his mind because his mother, you know, told him to. So, why would they take logic and throw it to the side? Because it’s easier to SEEM like you care to indoctrinate children than it is to actually use common sense with them.
My five-year old has been affected by this crap. At the end of the film, when the Once-ler, walks out and discovers that nature is making a comeback, she said to me:
“He understands now that what he was doing the wrong thing,” she said, a seasoned veteran of the movie’s “message” after seeing it once in the theaters with her grandmother, “He did not know what he was doing then, but now he does because he is old.”
Whew, and here I thought she would have figured out that only the horndog teenage boy and the girl he was after were the only ones who really understood right and wrong. With any luck, both of my kids will have that message sink in by the time they are teens themselves. Then they will know that they can get boys to do just about anything for them.
Once, when I was about 9, I discovered a yellow Labrador Retriever was stuck while trying to get out of the kennel he had been placed in. We had just obtained this pup from some other family. It must have been because they could not or just plain did not want to keep it, because he was about 2 years old, from what I remember. The age is only important to point out because he was big enough to have gotten on top of his dog house in the kennel, start squeezing his way through the fencing, and get stuck about half the way through.
This was not a good state for the dog, because where he was, left him with chain link pushing into his abdominal area. There was blood, much less, as I remember 32 years later than I my heart told me I was seeing at the time. I ran down there quickly and did the only thing I could do, which was to push the dog through. Afterwards, I rounded him up, placed him back in the kennel and tied his collar to the base with a loose rope.
My heart raced. Mom and Dad were not home, but when they got there, I was sure that I was going to be rewarded richly. I had just seen an episode of The Brady Bunch, where Peter saved a little girl from a falling shelf at a toy store. Someone then told the savior Brady kid that he could have one of anything he wanted at the store. They also wrote an article about him as “Boy Hero” in the local paper.
Well, I could live without the acclaim, but I already knew what it was I wanted to get at Jafco: The Star Wars Millenium Falcon toy ship. When my parents returned, I breathlessly told them the harrowing tale, expecting that they would immediately get me packed into the car and go to the store.
Instead…Dad looked at Mom, and they decided they were going to give back the dog. Dad picked up the phone, called someone and then went to get the dog and put it in the back of the station wagon. I never saw the dog again, but when I saw Dad again, he told me that he’d had reservations on getting a yellow lab because, in his approximate words: the dog wasn’t very bright.
The reason for the story is the reason I could not, as a reasonable person, recommend this movie to anyone with kids. It’s hard enough to raise kids in any era, without starting them off with a bunch of false legends that can only bring them confusion and grief when their perception is introduced to reality.
When Dr. Seuss wrote the original story, it received as much backlash as it did acclaim. There were bigger problems with the environment then, to be sure, but when companies decided they wanted to be able to stay in business to make more money, some things were changed. His message (of which this movie has skeletal remains) was perhaps more necessary then, and there are parts of the message which could be universal for all time. We should always seek to improve the way we treat our environment. That and being a successful entrepreneur are not mutually exclusive ideas. This movie is far too lazy to press or even exemplify that message. It’s easier to create business and entrepreneurship as enemies, applying to them negative Wall Street connotations that more accurately apply to corporate raiding and bad banking practices. Why is this? Because it’s too hard to explain that our government’s sell out of their regulatory compliance has as much to do with T.A.R.P.’s failure as anyone behind the credit default swaps.
I won’t bother telling you more about the film. There isn’t much to tell, really, other than the people of Illumination Entertainment, with ties to 20th Century Fox and distributed by Universal Studios, believe not what the story implies. If they did, they would cease production immediately and start communing with nature. What they really believe, (and who can blame them, with $336 worldwide box office receipts?) is that you will buy into their hackneyed message. As for me, I have some reverse engineering to do for two little girls.
After the movie was over, Emily also tried to describe to me what it was that she saw. She said that the original Lorax movie (made for TV, 1972 and recently re-released on DVD) was better. I would think it was more timely, too.
I am going to skip having my girls apply a number to this film. They are young enough to misunderstand how useless the information they received is. Nice animation is not enough to make up for a complete and utter wasted opportunity.
(* out of *****)