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THE LORAX – News/reviews

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  • Scottferguson
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    #56652

    Though the review says it will perform well, Variety doesn’t think the film is much good (and thus by implication not an animated feature contender):

    Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
    A
    bright, bouncy, candy-colored take on Dr. Seuss’ glum environmental
    fable, this latest CG-animated effort from the writers of “Horton Hears a
    Who!” has its share of eye-popping amusements, but its wobbly pacing
    and routine kidpic elements make for an experience that feels not just
    tiresome and rudderless but antithetical to the Seuss spirit.
    By Justin Chang
    The
    late Theodor Geisel’s uneven cinematic track record gets neither better
    nor worse with Universal’s bigscreen adaptation of “The Lorax.” A
    bright, bouncy, candy-colored take on Dr. Seuss’ glum environmental
    fable, this latest CG-animated effort from the writers of “Horton Hears a
    Who!” has its share of eye-popping amusements, but its wobbly pacing
    and routine kidpic elements make for an experience that feels not just
    tiresome and rudderless but antithetical to the Seuss spirit. Still,
    targeted family audiences are likely to respond favorably, spelling
    returns in line with “Horton” as well as the filmmakers’ even bigger
    recent hit, “Despicable Me.”

    Its release timed to coincide with what would have been Geisel’s
    108th birthday, “The Lorax” also happens to be arriving smack in the
    middle of election season, fittingly enough for a story whose despairing
    message about man’s impact on the environment stirred controversy even
    upon the book’s 1971 publication. Certainly the film has scored no
    shortage of green-friendly merchandising tie-ins (look for
    Lorax-approved laundry detergent at a store near you), though as far as artistry
    goes, the result is closer to “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” on the
    eco-friendly toon scale than to Hayao Miyazaki or “Wall-E.”

    Just as the classic half-hour TV specials of “The Cat in the Hat”
    and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” rendered the live-action feature
    versions of those beloved Seuss properties wholly unnecessary, so the
    excellent 1972 short-toon version of “The Lorax” feels like a model of
    elegant form
    and wry wit next to this overlong effort. The story — Geisel’s
    personal favorite, according to his widow, Audrey — is essentially
    the same: In a gray, desolate wasteland, a reclusive figure known as the
    Once-ler (voiced here by Ed Helms) bemoans the fact that years ago, as a
    young and ambitious entrepreneur, he chopped down all the region’s
    beautiful Truffula Trees, to the chagrin of the portly, mustachioed
    nature guardian called the Lorax (Danny DeVito, in fine form).

    In order to stretch this parable to the requisite feature length,
    scribes Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio have created an extended framing
    device set in the nearby town of Thneedville, a gleaming,
    postcard-perfect dystopia where nothing organic grows, everything is
    made of plastic, and a nasty, Napoleonic tyrant (Rob Riggle) controls
    the fresh-air supply.

    Determined to find a real, live tree as a present for a
    girl(Taylor Swift) he likes, plucky young Ted (Zac Efron) sneaks out of
    town and pays a visit to the Once-ler, now permanently locked away in
    his ramshackle abode. Though hostile at first, the Once-ler proceeds to
    tell Ted his story in flashback: how he razed the forest in order to
    knit thousands of scarf-like products called Thneeds, and how the Lorax,
    who speaks for the trees, tried in vain to appeal to his reason and
    conscience.

    As directed by Chris Renaud (who guided “Despicable Me” from Paul and Daurio’s script) and co-helmer Kyle Balda, the film offers
    a visually rich elaboration of Seuss’ hand-drawn world. Before the
    Once-ler’s arrival, the Lorax’s domain is an Edenic paradise, all
    rolling green hills and crystal-clear lakes, populated by cute critters
    such as the aptly named Humming-Fish and the bearlike Bar-ba-loots,
    which perform roughly the same sight-gag functions here that the Minions
    did in “Despicable Me.” These endangered environs are rendered in lush
    enough fashion to add some oomph to the unmistakably didactic,
    kid-empowering thrust of the story. (“Unless someone like you cares a
    whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”)

    Yet the key to Seuss’ tales, as with all good fables, is not only
    their cleverness but their surpassing elegance and simplicity,
    qualities that this busy, over-cluttered contraption of a movie seems
    entirely uninterested in replicating. On the contrary, nearly every
    scripting decision seems intended to squeeze “The Lorax” into the
    uninspired-gabfest mold of so much contempo studio animation, governed
    by the sort of second-rate wisecrackery and literal-minded story logic
    that have no place in Seuss’ universe.

    The book wittily limited the reader’s view of the Once-ler to his
    arms and hands, emphasizing his insatiable greed; the film not only
    presents him as a tall, strapping young man but gives him a
    super-annoying dysfunctional family, the better to explain his hangups
    and generate sympathy. Wacky supporting characters abound, from Riggle’s
    loud-mouthed bad guy to a wisecracking granny on skis who’s in the
    movie for no other reason than to give Betty White a typically adorable
    thesping opportunity.

    The 3D element lends a particularly luscious, tactile quality to
    the Truffula Trees, whose orange, pink and purple blossoms resemble
    nothing so much as gigantic cotton-candy bursts; otherwise, the finely
    tuned visuals gain little from the stereoscopic treatment. Songs by
    composer John Powell and co-scribe Paul are genial and loopy enough to
    give the film something of a Seussical sensibility.

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    Scottferguson
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    #56654

    Better HRep review (Michael Reftshaffen)

    The 3D adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ classic tale stars Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift.

    Respectfully sticking to the adaptation template set by 2008’s Horton Hears a Who!, the creative team behind Despicable Me has turned Theodor Geisel’s 1971 cautionary eco-tale into the most satisfyingly Seussian big screen effort to date.

    our editor recommends

    Universal’s ‘The Lorax’ Drives Dr. Seuss Book Sales Higher Ahead of Release

    ‘Secret World of Arrietty,’ ‘The Lorax’ Are Further Examples of Left-Wing Propaganda, Says Lou Dobbs (Video)

    Dr. Seuss’ ‘The Lorax’: ‘Tricky’ Stewart Signs On as Executive Song Producer

    Armed with a splendid voice cast and a gorgeously-rendered 3D-CG landscape, Dr. SeussThe Lorax entertains while delivering it’s pro-environmental, anti-greed message wrapped in a bright package of primary colors that truly pop.

    PHOTOS: Award Season Roundtable Series — Animation

    Universal Pictures should see no shortage of green when the Illumination Entertainment production opens March 2 packing an all-ages appeal that should sustain it well into spring break.

    Zac Efron brings a youthful wholesomeness to the role of Ted, the idealistic 12-year-old whose ecological consciousness springs to life courtesy of his crush on his slightly older and more enlightened neighbor, Audrey (agreeably voiced by Taylor Swift).

    The character names served as a sweet shout-out by Ted Geisel to his wife, Audrey, CEO of Dr. Seuss Enterprises and Lorax executive producer.
    Determined to win her affection, Ted sets his sights beyond the plastic walls of the pre-fabricated town of Thneedville in search of the legendary Truffula Tree, with a little guidance from his spirited Grammy Norma (terrific as usual Betty White).

    His trek takes him to the foreboding, isolated home of The Once-ler (Ed Helms), a recluse who ultimately shares his tale of Thneed-fed greed—having stripped the entire Truffula Valley of its candy-colored vegetation despite the attempted intervention of the trees’ guardian–an orange sprite with a yellow Rip Taylor ‘stache called The Lorax (an ideal Danny DeVito).

    Having previously blended the irreverent and the touching to rewarding effect in Despicable Me, director Chris Renaud and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (in addition, the pair previously got their Seuss on with Horton Hears a Who!) prove to be the right team for the job at hand.

    It all zips along pleasantly, elevated by those vividly pastoral visuals and that on-the-money voice cast, which also includes Rob Riggle as the villainous Aloysius O’Hare, a pint-sized heavy who has made his fortune selling bottled fresh air to the people of Thneedville, with his factories further polluting the atmosphere in the process.

    Speaking of fresh, while the Dr. Seuss book was certainly ahead of its time, the film occasionally feels less so—while the O’Hare character is somewhat reminiscent of Edna Mode in Pixar’s The Incredibles, Thneedville’s visual and thematic cues are similarly evocative of the twin worlds of Wall-E.
    Meanwhile, the original songs contributed by Paul and score composer John Powell, are obviously going for a rock musical vibe but don’t quite hit the desired chord.

    That’s especially true of the ironic closing title number, Let It Grow (Celebrate the World), performed by Ester Dean, which, given the film’s organic message, might have opted for a less-auto-tuned, more unplugged rendition.

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    Scottferguson
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    #56655

    Tony Scott/NY Times – “a noisy, worthless piece of junk”

    How the Grinch Stole the Lorax
    By

    Since its publication in 1971 “The Lorax,” by Dr. Seuss, has occasionally been caught up in squalls of controversy, most of it cooked up by people choosing to be outraged by the book’s mild allegorical moral of ecological responsibility. In our own globally warmed, ideologically fevered moment there has been a minor flurry of predictable, pre-emptive bloviation aimed at Universal’s movie version, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” which is supposedly part of a left-wing Hollywood conspiracy to brainwash America’s children into hating capitalism and loving trees.

    Having donned recyclable 3-D glasses and seen the thing for myself, I’m not sure whether to mock the enemies of “The Lorax” for their cluelessness, to offer them reassurance or to compliment them for being half-right. Thematically the movie, directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda from a script by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul and made under the auspices of the Illumination animation studio, dutifully lectures its audience on the folly of overconsumption and the virtue of conservation. At times the imagery takes on a dark, almost apocalyptic cast as it surveys the smogged-up, denuded landscape where the trees used to be and the shiny, commercialized pseudo-utopia (called Thneedville) that an alienated humanity, having lost the memory of nature, now calls home.

    Don’t be fooled. Despite its soft environmentalist message “The Lorax” is an example of what it pretends to oppose. Its relationship to Dr. Seuss’s book is precisely that of the synthetic trees that line the streets of Thneedville to the organic Truffulas they have displaced. The movie is a noisy, useless piece of junk, reverse-engineered into something resembling popular art in accordance with the reigning imperatives of marketing and brand extension.

    This is not a matter of hypocrisy or corporate green-washing on the part of the filmmakers, nor of reflexive Loraxian dogmatism on my part. The corporate entertainment system has shown itself perfectly capable of injecting soul into what it sells, and at inflecting some of its products with a critical spirit. “Wall-E” is a transcendent example, brilliantly embracing its own contradictions, but there are plenty of other movies, animated and not, that manage to pay tribute to the beauty of the natural world even as they revel in giddy, merchandising-friendly artifice.

    And Theodor Seuss Geisel, it should be noted, was hardly averse to commerce. He started out in advertising and built his middle name into a formidable brand that, like the Once-ler’s empire in “The Lorax,” grew bigger and bigger and bigger. But in his lifetime Geisel exercised strict quality control, a practice that his estate has abandoned, authorizing a series of cinematic abominations both live-action (“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat”) and animated (“Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!” and now this one).

    “The Lorax,” while it nods in the direction of Dr. Seuss’s distinctive, trippy drawing style, treats his sensibility as, at best, a decorative element. The movie’s silliness, like its preachiness, is loud and slightly hysterical, as if young viewers could be entertained only by a ceaseless barrage of sensory stimulus and pop-culture attitude, or instructed by songs that make the collected works of Up With People sound like Metallica. The simple fable of the Lorax and the Once-ler is wrapped in gaudy, familiar business and festooned with grim, forced cheer. What do the kids want? Car chases! Kooky grandmas! Pint-size villains flanked by thuggish minions! Things that fly! Taylor Swift!

    “The Lorax” has all that and more. (The grandma is voiced by the meme of the moment Betty White; a villain added for the movie is voiced by Rob Riggle.) It tells parallel stories, one about a young boy named Ted (Zac Efron), who in order to impress a girl (Ms. Swift) sets out to find an actual, living tree. (Of course the girl couldn’t possibly go out and find the tree herself, a sexist assumption that is, unfortunately, the only authentically Seussian aspect of the movie.) He ventures over the metal wall that encloses Thneedville and finds the Once-ler (Ed Helms), a hermit who tells the tale of his own encounter with the cranky orange Lorax (Danny DeVito).

    “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” Those words are a permanent part of the literary heritage, and no movie can change that. And when the Lorax is around, warily befriending the ambitious Once-ler, you can almost believe you are in the Seussian universe. The parable of an ambitious entrepreneur who lets his ingenuity curdle into unchecked greed is more or less intact, and his corruption is conveyed in a few memorable, semi-inspired visual flights. But these only emphasize the hectic, willful mediocrity that characterizes the rest of the movie, and far too many of its kind.

    In the film as in the book, the Once-ler ravages the landscape and destroys the Truffula trees to manufacture thneeds, knitted garments that have multiple uses but no real utility. Demand for them is insatiable for a while, and then, once the trees are gone, the thneeds are forgotten, partly because nobody really needed them in the first place. There is an obvious metaphor here, but the movie is blind to it, and to everything else that is interesting or true in the story it tries to tell.

    “The Lorax” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). Scary scenes, a bit of naughtiness, nonstop hucksterism.

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    Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #56656

    Anybody else sick to death of computer animation?! (Now they are even ruining Dr Seuss.) To wit: Did anybody anywhere get excited about RANGO winning Best Animated Feature this year?

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    babypook
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    #56657

    Well. as someone who holds the political aspects of a film dear, The Lorax appears to be enviro-friendly in its message at least. So I dont care that much about how the medium is delivered. I know a few kids who would love to go and see this with me (and not just because I buy them popcorn); plus, it’s a great excuse for me to go as well.

    And I’m goin’.

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    M H
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    #56658

    To wit: Did anybody anywhere get excited about RANGO winning Best Animated Feature this year?

    I was very excited. Rango is an excellent film, with some of the best animation – computer or otherwise – to ever grace the big screen.  

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    pacinofan
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    #56659

    Anybody else sick to death of computer animation?! (Now they are even ruining Dr Seuss.) To wit: Did anybody anywhere get excited about RANGO winning Best Animated Feature this year?

    People on this site liked it enough for it to make the Goldderby Rankings’ Top 10 while no other animated films (“Puss in Boots”, “The Adventures of TinTin”, etc.) came anywhere near it. It ranked more highly than all of the best picture Oscar nominees save “The Artist” and “Moneyball”.

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    Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #56660

    [quote=”Poubelle”]To wit: Did anybody anywhere get excited about RANGO winning Best Animated Feature this year?

    I was very excited. Rango is an excellent film, with some of the best animation – computer or otherwise – to ever grace the big screen.  [/quote]

    Please, let’s not exaggerate.

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    pacinofan
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    #56661

    It had a very unusual Salvador Dali-meets-Hunter S. Thompson- meets Sergio Leone- style that was intriguing. It was quite easily the best of the popular, American animated films of 2011 though I cannot speak for the indie and under-the-radar “Chico and Rita” and “A Cat in Paris”.

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    Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #56662

    Well, it was better than Cars 2, but it’s no Wall-E.

    Anyway, my original point being, I am tired of [most] computer animation and its formulaic, borscht-belt, “clever-allusion” style.  Nothing ever matches the beauty and creativity of the best, traditional Disney, Studio Ghibli, or Sylvain Chomet work.

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    Carbon Based Lifeform
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    #56663

    Well. as someone who holds the political aspects of a film dear, The Lorax appears to be enviro-friendly in its message at least. So I dont care that much about how the medium is delivered. I know a few kids who would love to go and see this with me (and not just because I buy them popcorn); plus, it’s a great excuse for me to go as well.

    And I’m goin’.

    Agreed — enviro-friendly entertainment is a plus and should be encouraged.  Plus, I actually enjoyed DESPICABLE ME, from the same director.  I do think, however, that the film’s marketing team should think twice about partnering with car companies and fast food restaurants, which sort of contradicts Dr Seuss’ theme of environmental responsibility!

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