It only took four films, but I am now completely convinced that feature films just are not the place for Dr. Seuss. I have never been a huge fan of Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but at least it had a few pleasant moments sprinkled throughout thanks to the casting of Jim Carrey. While I will never find this film in my own personal collection, I know many people who consider it to be another holiday “classic.” Leave this moniker to the true classic 1966 version. In the live action realm, the less said about Mike Myers’ The Cat in the Hat, the better.
When it was announced that Horton Hears a Who! would be computer animated, I had high hopes, aside from the fact that it was under the guidance of the team behind the law of diminishing returns’ Ice Age films, Blue Sky Studios. While definitely a step up from the likes of The Grinch and especially The Cat, the film still managed to be extremely underwhelming. Considering the filmmakers were already stretching a 72-page book of charming whimsy into an 86 minute film, things got particularly boring in the Jungle of Nool. Now Universal Pictures has taken Dr. Seuss’ even shorter 45-page book about environmentalism and turned it into 96 excruciating minutes of soapbox preaching. Unfortunately, subtlety is the last thing you’re going to find in the world of Thneedville.
The creative minds of the far greater Despicable Me now bring you the misadventures of 12-year-old Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) and his search for the truth behind what happened to all the missing trees of Thneedville. The world full of plastic is run by the greedy Mr. O’Hare (voiced by Rob Riggle), who is scoring big money off of his O’Hare Air. But Ted has the hots for classmate Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift), and one day flies an R/C airplane into her backyard. Audrey ushers him out back where she shows off the giant, seemingly extinct, Truffula trees she has painted onto her house and tells him that she would marry anyone on the spot who can show her a real, live tree.
Back at home, Ted’s Grammy Norma (voiced by Betty White) tells him he needs to find the mysterious “Once-ler” (voiced by Ed Helms). Only he knows the key to where the Truffula Trees be. Alas, Ted seeks out the “Once-ler” where he is then told the story of what happened to the town’s environment, for it was he who chopped down all the trees, much to the dismay of the little orange speaker of the trees, the titular Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito). Now Ted has to discover that the power to save the planet, at least of Thneedville that is, if he can find the strength to stand up against big business and all its dastardly ways.
What directors Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Kyle Balda have brought to life is anti-consumerism preaching at its worst. While some may have balked at the oil tycoon character of Tex Richman in The Muppets, it doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Mr. O’Hare and his cans of clean air. Screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (the masterminds behind such “classics” as Bubble Boy, The Santa Clause 2, Road Trip, and Hop) have wrought upon moviegoers is cinematic preaching of the most offensive kind. While Dr. Seuss’ original story may have been a nice little fable of the dangers of industrialized society, the film hammers you over the head relentlessly (and in 3-D to make it hurt even more) with its supposed messages.
If anyone ever wanted to call Act of Valor some kind of propaganda, hopefully I can warn you away from the antics on display here. For about 30 minutes I was on board with the film wanting to be the allegory the original book was, but then things became ever more boring. Eventually, the film screeches to a halt and becomes the beacon of preaching with one of its big musical pièce de résistance, “How Bad Can I Be?”
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that it’s a musical? Well that seems kind of hypocritical when they know the soundtrack is available for purchase now isn’t it? All Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax winds up being is as bad as everything they set out to crush with their agenda, which ultimately winds up only being all hope for an entertaining time at the movies.
Photos courtesy Universal Pictures