Friday, September 07, 2012

Movie Review - The Lorax (2012)

As a kid, The Lorax was one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories. Not only did I enjoy the storytelling, but I also had a lot of fun watching the 1972 cartoon based on the book. One thing to remember about the animated Dr. Seuss of the 70s is that they were very faithful representations of the book. They used the same art as the book and the script was very often an exact reading of the book text.

I recently watched the 2012 updated version with my kids. Even from the preview I could tell that the movie makers were taking some definite liberties with the story. I didn't expect any major departures from the story, but it was clear that they would be adding considerable content into the "gaps" of the story. NOTE: I'm going to be going over some of the additions to the story. I assume that you're already familiar with the original book, so I don't claim any "spoilers" for that story, but if you want to be surprised, just skip to the end here for my overall opinion without risking spoiling any plot points for you.

The movie gives a full storyline and family to the boy who goes to visit the Once-ler. In the book, the boy is present on the periphery and is given a challenge at the end of the book but in the movie the boy becomes a central character named Ted. Ted lives in "Thneed-Ville" named after the Thneeds invented by the Once-ler years ago. Thneed-ville is a sort of plastic-mechanical city where all needs and recreation are provided by artificial man-made means and on the whole there is no real concept of "nature" or "natural" elements. In fact, the current Mayor of Thneed-Ville makes his living by selling containers of clean air to the citizens.

Ted has a crush on a girl in the town and learns that she has a dream to see a real living tree (rather than the plastic and metal imitations around town). Ted learns about the Once-ler and decides to go outside of town to visit him. Outside of town is a deserted wasteland still suffering the consequences of the Once-ler's industrial ravaging of the area. He works his way through some strange booby traps to get to chat with the Once-ler. Rather than having the Once-ler tell his entire story in one sitting (as seems to be the case in the book), Ted has to come back a few different times and each time, he has different obstacles in his way.

As for the Once-ler's story, it also had some new elements added. We get to know his family more in depth and they are quite the set of characters. We spend quite a while with the Once-ler before he becomes a mega greedy corporate millionaire. We actually see the Once-ler and the Lorax build up quite the relationship, which is interesting.

During the Once-ler's story, we also get to know the Lorax in a more personal way than in the book. This is a lot of fun, but I felt like it came a little at the expense of some of the aspects of the Lorax's personality from the book. I felt like Danny DeVito did a great job voicing the Lorax. But I missed some of his quirky rhyming couplets and behavior. I also missed some of the songs and music from the previous movie. There were songs in this one but they were rather different in scope and tone.

One very interesting addition is that this movie continues on AFTER the story from the book ends. We get to see what happens after the Once-ler gives Ted the challenge of "Unless." The ending sequence of the movie includes vehicle chases, confrontations with big baddies and overcoming high odds in search of a higher goal. Where the book left the action in the hands of the reader (or viewer), this movie explicitly drives home the resolution that should be taken.

Overall, I still really enjoyed the story of the Lorax and had fun with this movie. I didn't see it in 3D but it was very evident which scenes were specifically built to try and take advantage of the 3D ins and outs. There were a number of things I nostalgically missed from the book and 1970s movie, but generally this was true to the nature of the story. I had fun with some of the additions to the story though I could have done without a lot of them. The kids really enjoyed the movie. I'm not sure if they've seen the old one recently enough to remember it and I'm not sure the last time I'd read the book with them (or that they read it on their own). I'll have to encourage them to do so.

Generally, this was a fun movie. If you're a fan of the Lorax, you should enjoy it. If you're a fan of kids movies, you should have fun as well…there's good animation and solid kid humor. If you're a die-hard purist when it comes to Dr. Seuss, you may be a little disappointed at the changes made.

3 out of 5 stars


Brian Miller said...

it is a fun movie...we saw it all together....and movies we can do that at are not always easy to find...

Gina said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the original movie (have it on DVD) and the book (of course!), but I had a more favorable opinion of this movie I think than you. I thought they held true to the original story rather well, just fleshed it out a bit more....not that it needed it, but it presented a new generation a way to get into the original that perhaps they may have overlooked. To each their own....thanks for sharing!

Okie said...

Re-reading this, I think I did come off more negative than I intended.

I actually did really enjoy the movie. It was a lot of fun. And yes, it did stay true to the original story. I think the nostalgic part of me was just uneasy at the additions because even though they were fun, I missed some of the things from the previous film. I did like seeing the new interactions between Lorax and Once-Ler before all the trees are chopped down. And I also liked seeing the resolution at the end.

Still, for my time and nostalgia I'd probably rather go to the original more often. But I wouldn't turn down a rewatch of this version either.