Dr. Seuss created wonderful stories and unforgettable characters. Yet, few have been able to adapt his stories to other media. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is an example of a well-done adaptation. Sadly, it is the exception.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is an example of the rule.
The movie is about a boy named Ted (Zac Efron) who loves a girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift).
They live in a town that looks wonderful, but the reality is that the town is totally plastic and artificial. The town is so artificial one has to buy fresh air in containers.
Audrey longs to see a real tree. All the trees she knows are blow-up fakes. She tells Ted she would immediately kiss the boy that brought her a tree for her birthday.
So Ted sets out to find a tree. To do so, his Grammy Norma (Betty White) tells him to go outside the city and find the Once-ler (Ed Helms). The Once-ler knows about trees.
When Ted finds his way to the edge of town, he sees that outside the walls of the city there is nothing more than a gray wasteland.
In an old house, he finds the Once-ler. When Ted asks about trees, the Once-ler tells a story about when he set out to make his fortune.
The story is of a young man who leaves home to find a place where he can create a product that will sell and make him rich. When he finds the place, it is a valley covered in beautiful, multi-colored trees.
In the valley live many small bears, birds and fish. They all seem to live in harmony with each other, eating the fruit of the trees.
The Once-ler cuts down a tree to use in creating his product, and that is when the Lorax (Danny DeVito) appears.
The Lorax comes to speak for the trees. He is a small, orange and annoying little creature with a big mustache. He warns the Once-ler about the danger that comes from cutting down trees.
The Once-ler tries to sell his product, but fails. When he comes back to the valley, he promises to never cut down another tree.
But a bit later, his product is discovered by people, and they demand more. The Once-ler begins to cut down trees to make his product, and before long the trees are gone and the product cannot be made.
When this happens, the Once-ler learns his sin. He created a world without trees.
“The Lorax” tells the viewer about the threat of corporate greed. Lou Dobbs claims the movie will brainwash children, but I see no threat of that.
What I see is an attempt by a corporate entity to preach about the evils of corporations. The movie was made by Universal, which is owned by Comcast, another corporation.
And there are many endorsements and tie-ins to the movie, including Mazda, Hilton Hotels and IHOP. That makes the movie seem to be talking out of both sides of its mouth.
What made Dr. Seuss’ work so wonderful was its brevity. The stories had great impact because they were of a length that allowed a child to focus on words.
They were short and sweet. This led to children learning wonderful lessons in a small amount of time.
Turning these miniature masterpieces into full-length movies demands lots of filler. The filler here does not do justice to the basic story.
What it does is muddle the larger message, which gets lost in the desire to preach down rather than proclaim up.
My 15-year-old was bored out of his mind with this movie and I was, too.
For all the beautiful and colorful scenes, “The Lorax” wound up being nothing more than pretty pictures with a lackluster message.
And how sad it is that the sermon is delivered by a character once a guardian of the environment, now a shill for SUVs and pancakes.
MPAA Rating: PG for brief mild language.
Directors: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Writer: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (based on a book by Dr. Seuss)
Cast: Zac Efron: Ted; Taylor Swift: Audrey; Danny DeVito: The Lorax; Ed Helms: The Once-ler; Betty White: Grammy Norma; Jenny Slate: Ted’s Mom.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.