Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot
Nothing’s going to get better.
If you know me – like, really really KNOW me – you know that Dr. Seuss has had a profound influence on my life. Also, almost every single one of his books can make me cry. Also, I know about his troubled side too, which makes me love him all the more.
As a child, I had two Dr. Seuss stories that stood head and shoulders above the rest: The Sneetches and The Lorax. Both of them were so incredibly important to me, although as a child, I had no idea why. I vividly remember pouring through the text as a child, and I loved (LOVED LOVED) the Friz Freeling/Chuck Jones animated versions of both of the stories. (Seriously, I know all of the songs. By heart. Even the harmonies.)
So .. I was hesitant about the remake of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. I’d been lured in before with promises of “artistic interpretation that honors the original work” and been sorely disappointed. (MIKE MYERS, YOU ARE DEAD TO ME, WITH YOUR BONER JOKES AS THE CAT IN THE HAT.) As such, I never saw Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who because, even though I LOVE THAT STORY (elephant birds make me cry to this day), I get so very very mad.
But I had done right by my boys: they, too, love The Lorax. They’ve seen the 1979 cartoon, they know the songs from it, we’ve read the book DOZENS of times. So when THEY saw the remake coming out, they had childlike optimism and begged to go see it.
After a particularly trying week, Bryan, Tony and I were to the breaking point and I finally threw my hands up and said, “That’s it. We’re having a date night tonight. All of us. To the movies!”
We opted for 2D, and having seen it now, I’m glad we did. Although it’s a gorgeous visual movie, I couldn’t see where the 3D was particularly amazing, and with CGI especially, you get the full effect without having to futz with glasses for two hours.
So, my thoughts:
- First of all, the previews? WERE SO DARK AND SCARY. Seriously. For a movie about light and nature and environmentalism, the previews were all about reanimated corpses. No, really. I heard several kids behind us START CRYING during the previews. This was not a good plan, movie-people.
- I really thought I’d detest the added sub-plot of Ted (Zac Effron) and his love-interest, Audrey (Taylor Swift), because it wasn’t really organic to the original story line. While I can’t say I wish the book had it in there, I can say that I didn’t feel it took away from it, either. It was a nice, level-loaded plotline. Also.. and I hate saying this .. not only did I not mind Taylor Swift, I .. thought she did a good job. Sort of.
- Alright, ENGAGE FULL DR. SEUSS DORKINESS. I really really really love that, in the original story, the Once-Ler is never seen. All that’s ever seen of the Once-Ler is his green hands. Occasionally, from his shuttered window of his Lurkim, his eyes might peek out. But that’s it. I love that you can make him whatever character you want in your head. Because the Once-Ler is not inherently bad. He makes bad choices, which have bad repercussions, but he is not bad. I did not like that we humanized the character. I didn’t like seeing him as a caucasian male.
- That said, I love Ed Helms and I really really really liked his vocalizations as the Once-Ler. Even if I didn’t like the way they developed the character, I loved him.
- I also didn’t like that Ed Helms was a good guy until his mother got involved. In the original story, the family was not integral to the story at all. The Once-Ler did employ them, but after he’d already “gone too far”.
- I rather loved Danny Devito as The Lorax.
- I thought the music was nice and rich and well-developed, especially the “Bad” number featuring Ed Helms.
- Plot-wise, it felt unbalanced in the actual Lorax tale. We spent 2/3 of the movie setting up how cute the Barbaloots are and how the Lorax and the Once-Ler were actually friends and pratfalls and whatnot – which were fun, don’t get me wrong – and then we kind of glossed over the environmental results of the Once-Ler’s industry. Which.. I thought .. was the whole point. The original story tells individual stories of the Humming Fish, the Swammy Swans, and the Barbaloots. The movie barely even named the former two animals, focusing on the cute “bears” instead. And the environmental destruction was actually rolled up in the afore-mentioned “Bad” song in the form of a 2 second glance at the animals looking sad.
- Betty White? You will forever own me.
- So, full admission: I cried. I cried A LOT. I especially cried at the ending, because they included the ending that I had always imagined, and it made me cry. A lot. Did I mention the crying? (I might be slightly emotionally raw anyway.)
- Hollywood: our kids are not so dumb that we have to remove all of the verse. Dr. Seuss is amazing at creating cadence that is child-like and still meaningful. Please don’t remove all of it.
All in all, it’s a great movie for kids who are unfamiliar with the original text, and it might generate some good conversation about caring for our environment, which is never a bad thing. It was genuinely funny and had good music and kind of brought the “task” of being the catalyst to fix a problem to a child’s level, which was nice.
But I don’t know. I think Tony said it best, as the credits started rolling: “Momma, can we go home and watch the REAL Lorax movie?” If you aren’t familiar with it, the award-winning 1972 30 minute animated cartoon is a totally worthy investment. It follows the actual verse more closely – maintaining the rhyming cadence, most importantly – and it allows for more concentration on the outcomes of the Once-Ler’s choices. We’ve had entirely more meaningful conversations about the actual text – “Momma, is the Once-Ler a bad guy? He doesn’t seem bad.” – and I love those conversations.
More than anything else, I so loved getting into a dark room for an hour and a half and turning off my brain.