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The Lorax

The Lorax

With a moustache that big, they cannot fail to win... whatever it is

dir: Chris Renaud

I love Dr Seuss books. I didn’t know that until a couple of years ago, when I started reading them to my daughter. I don’t really remember them from my first go-round, as a kid, but this time, I delight in the rhyming nonsense and the stern moralising underpinning everything that Theodore Geisel thought up and brought out onto the page.

I don’t think they’re necessarily brilliant, or childhood defining, or fundamental to our understanding of society the way that a comprehensive understanding of Greek mythology or Jersey Shore is, but they’re all right as entertainment. Transmuting them in the crucible of Hollywood to animated movies is a relatively pointless endeavour except from the perspective of earning big cash pay offs.

And there's nothing wrong with earning heaps of big money in ethical and environmentally sustainable manners as far as I'm concerned, so hurray for more flicks based on Dr Seuss books! They can only, surely, make the world a better place.

The Lorax is possibly the least subtle and most colourful anti-rampant consumerism big budget animated movie you'll ever see that isn't WALL-E. Unlike WALL-E, however, which was never that subtle to begin with, this flick is aiming determinedly lower. This will never be confused with something put out by Pixar.

That hardly matters, because does anyone really expect a piece of consumerist product to change people's minds, especially about their materialism and, uh, unrestrained consumerism?

Fuck no, that’s never going to happen, and the cognitive dissonance at play, of marketing and merchandising something that seems to be saying marketing and merchandising is bad doesn’t bother anyone except pretentious fucks who wank on about this kind of bullshit in movie reviews posted all over the tubes of the internets.

Present and accounted for. This flick is meant to be all about Trees, Those Stupid Trees / They make the air that we breath / And the trees, the stupid trees / they never said that you’d be leavin’. Blame Jarvis Cocker and Pulp for that, or blame me for repeating it.

The trees do not speak to the people in this flick, well, most of them, who live in a plastic fantastic town called Thneedville. All the trees are plastic, and in some cases electric, and there’s nothing organic except for the humans anywhere as far as the eye can see before it meets the forbidding metal walls surrounding the town.

One boy, inspired by a crush on a redhead, and frankly, who can blame him, tries to find out what happened to the trees that presumably used to exist in or around the town. The only reason he’s doing that is because he thinks this will bring him one step closer to achieving his dastardly and monstrous plan to Extract a Kiss on the Cheek from the redhead called Audrey. The cad! The bounder! The monster!

What he should be more concerned with is why these people are prisoners in their own town, but that never seems to bother anyone. Far more compelling is the search for the tragedy of the taking away of the trees.

Our main character is called Ted, named after Theodore Geisel. Who the fuck is that, you’re not asking yourself. Well, funny you shouldn’t ask; it’s Dr Seuss’s real name. You didn’t actually think he was called Dr Seuss, and wore a tilting stovepipe hat like the Cat in the Hat, did you? Wow, this is proving to be a real education for both of us, don’t you doubt it.

Ted seeks out The Once-ler, a crazy old man upon whom rests the blame for the destruction of the truffler trees, these pink and purple-y looking lollipops with candy-floss looking tufts at the top. Even these multi-coloured hicks know that the trees make the air that we breath, but these trees surely would be able to do no such thing. They don’t have leaves, but that hardly matters, since they are so pretty, and so usable.

Much of the story is given over to the Once-ler talking about following his dream to become a rich, isolated jerk by alienating the few creatures that could tolerate him and by destroying every tree in sight of the town. He transforms from a Johnny Appleseed type planning on making his mark on the world, to, as far as I could figure out, turning into The Riddler from the Batman comics.

Oh, what a sorrowful tale it is. I guess. When he cuts down the first tree, a strange creature appears on the tree stump, sporting a moustache that would be the envy of old gay men, fly fishermen and Wilfred Brimleys everywhere. The Lorax appears, to speak for the trees, to ask the Once-ler and his cohorts to stop what they’re doing. Unfortunately, this strange creature doesn’t really have any superpowers, apart from looking sternly at people, and insisting that they stop what they’re doing.

He speaks for the trees, but he can’t really fight for them.

What fucking good is he then? Not much, not much by a longshot.

His one power is a power shared even by people who don’t speak for trees and who don’t possess superb moustaches that Sam Elliot would cry tears of blood to possess: the power of guilting people into doing what you want them to do. It doesn’t avert catastrophe, but, like the seeds of guilt and neurosis planted by manipulative and overbearing mothers throughout the ages, in time they will bloom.

The main story occurs in the past, but the main action occurs in the ‘present’, with determined Ted fighting the machinations of local tyrant O’Hare, who has somehow cornered the market on bottles of air. The people are clearly breathing something, but, they’re paying for bottles of air as well. I guess the villain’s statement about putting something in clear plastic bottles compelling people to buy it in droves isn’t that far fetched.

There could not be any surprises to anyone who’s ever seen a kid’s movie or any movie for that matter. That doesn’t wreck anything, and I’d argue that the way the story plays out, and the necessary padding they’ve done to the story doesn’t harm it or Dr Seuss’s legacy in any way. I dare say that had Dr Seuss not had the temerity to die, he probably would have thought the sentiments of the book were nicely carried over to the film, and that it gave its simplistic environmental views a fair shake.

But really, the kids don’t care about that kind of stuff, because they just want to be entertained. And this is a colourful and well-put-together (yet very formulaic) kids flick with barely a brain in its head but plenty of treacly sentiment. The 3D sequences look cheap, pointless and barely add a thing to a flick that’s plenty visually over the top as it is.

My daughter isn’t the sole arbiter of whether I like a kid’s flick or not, but I certainly have to take her opinion into consideration when I’ve watched a flick in the cinema with her. She said it was the best movie ever! But then she says that after every flick we see in the cinema, except for that time when I made the mistake of taking her to a documentary about the goddamn oceans. She enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t say she was riveted to the spot and motionless with delight during The Lorax.

Put enough pink stuff and humour at the expense of short people in a flick, and you’ll make even more money than the Once-ler, and you won’t even have to exterminate entire species to achieve it. That is the true message of The Lorax!

Oh, and don’t cut down all the trees, please. That’s just rude.

7 times redheads provide the motivation for all decent achievements in the world out of 10

“Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, things aren't going to get better. They're not.”
- “You do know that you are talking in rhyme, don't you?” – The Lorax