The imaginative world of Dr. Seuss comes to life like never before in this visually spectacular adventure from the creators of Despicable Me! Twelve-year-old Ted will do anything to find a real live Truffula Tree in order to impress the girl of his dreams. As he embarks on his journey, Ted discovers the incredible story of the Lorax, a grumpy but charming creature who speaks for the trees. Featuring the voice talents of Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, and Betty White, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is filled with hilarious fun for everyone! (from TheLoraxMovie.com)
Illumination Entertainment had a taste of success in 2010 with their hit Despicable Me and have returned this year with something completely different: a big screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Seuss stories have not had a whole lot of success as feature films, with films like How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Cat In The Hat and Horton Hears A Who all receiving mixed to entirely bleak (Cat In The Hat) reception from critics and Seuss fans. Of the three, Horton Hears A Who probably came out the shiniest with the best end product, but with each book-to-film adaptation, the stories have had to be padded with all new material to flesh it out into a full-on feature film. Oftentimes this doesn't work so well, and for diehard fans of Seuss' work, The Lorax won't fair much better.
The Lorax book debuted in 1972 and contained the heart and basic plot of the film within its pages. However, fleshing the story out into an hour and a half calls for new characters to be introduced, from a girl that young Ted aims to impress to the town villain, O'Hare, who just wants to capitalize on providing a pristine world for the townsfolk to live in. Also, The Once-ler, who in the book only appears as gloved hands and eyes peering through wooden slats, is given a fully developed back story, and is revealed for all to see.
For anyone unfamiliar with The Lorax story (as, admittedly, I was upon viewing the film), the story can be seen as overtly preachy when it comes to the environment. The original Seuss book does involve a boy asking Once-ler why there are no trees and why the world has gotten so desolate, and the Once-ler does explain that it's because of the deforestation of their land. Personally, I agree (to a degree) that it's crucial to care for the land God has entrusted for us, but putting such a heavy-handed message into kids' entertainment feels preachy at best. At worst, it tries to inspire guilt in viewers for ever wanting to own anything made from tree products (which, you may be surprised, is a lot). And considering how most companies who cut down trees to make products actually plant new trees to replace them, it seems unfair to instill young viewers with the idea that cutting down trees and using the wood to make useful products is bad (That's not to say, however, that the "Thneed" in the film is all that needed or useful). Still, being mindful of our environment and giving back--and not just taking--are valuable lessons to consider. While I do think it all could have been handled in a more subtle or delicate way, the source material for the film (i.e. the original book) isn't very subtle at all.
With that said, the film is still relatively enjoyable. Director Chris Renaud (Despicable Me and the forthcoming Despicable Me 2) and company fill the story with cute forest characters with their own little personalities (the trio of fish are hysterical), and the brand of humor displayed in the story falls somewhere between Horton Hears A Who and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. There are plenty of instances of random humor, and it's those moments that propell the story forward well. However, once we get to the part of the plot where it all falls apart for The Once-ler, after he's cut down the last Truffula Tree, the humor is gone and the story picks up an overall more serious tone from then on (Even showing the animals in a grim and gloomy state seems pretty dark). Of course, things lighten up a bit by the film's end, but it's still more serious than when the story starts. The newly-created villain for the film's story, O'Hare, is not the kind of likeable villain that makes for some of the best stories. He resembles, greatly, a male version of Edna Mole from The Incredibles--from the bowl hair cut to the short stature, on down to the mannerisms--and hasn't got a redeemable bone in his wee little body. Meanwhile, other new characters like the Betty White-voiced grandmother of the protagonist, Ted, is creepy at times and amusing at others. She exists to support Ted in his quest, but she's definitely one of the more over-the-top characters here.
The film garners its rating of PG for "brief mild language," although no noticeable profanity is present (according to IMDB, O'Hare says "d*mn" at one point, but I didn't notice it. I rewatched the scene during the film's climax and he does seem to grunt out a "d*mmit," but it isn't very clear). However, there is plenty of name-calling that you can imagine for such a film (stuff like "idiot" and "numbskull"), and there's a good amount of dramatic, ominous moments in the film. Most of the latter come in the form of the desolate areas outside of Thneedsville's walls where The Once-ler resides. It's creepy and haunting, so some more sensitive little viewers may be afraid of that. Also, we see large vehicles with gigantic axes swinging from a long cone at the end of them--used for cutting down trees--that are shown intimidatingly (and in one scene, are lit pretty intensely). And some of the gags used in the film involve slapping or poking, or like in one scene, Once-ler carelessly tossing items out of the back of his wagon, which end up being sharp, lethal objects that narrowly miss harming nearby, on-looking woodland creatures. Overall, the tone of the film is definitely PG; I probably wouldn't recommend this movie for toddlers.
Overall, The Lorax is pretty fun family entertainment. The environmental message is just a bit too heavy-handed overall, stunting some of the enjoyment of the story, but with a strong voice cast and some good silly fun, The Lorax is a memorable tale.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 8/4/12)
Mini-Movies (11:57) - There are three mini-movies with a Play All option. The first one, "Wagon Ho!," features a couple of the bears playing with Once-ler's wagon, coaxing the mule to drive them by using a treat. "Forces of Nature" is a cute little short where The Lorax tries to intimidate Once-ler by scaring him with shadow puppets while he's trying to sleep. "Serenade" closes it out as a couple of the bears compete for the hand of a female bear by singing to her. Lastly, The Making of the Mini-Movies explains why they chose the little stories and how they came up with them (including the fact that some of them were ideas for the feature film story that didn't quite fit into the movie).
Deleted Scene (1:31) - The single deleted scene for The Lorax is a snippet omitted during the scene where The Once-ler's "Thneed" finally catches on as a success. It's cute, but was unnecessary and definitely worthy of being left out.
O'Hare TV (1:34:00) is a feature-length version of the film where occasional fake "O'Hare TV" commercials interrupt the film. Voice actor Jim Cummings (famous for voicing Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, and 90s Disney cartoon characters like Darkwing Duck and Bonkers) performs the commercial voiceovers here. The commercials can range anywhere from a commercial for tree lightbulb accessories to a fake food called "O'Delicious" (which comes in 38 flavors, including Broccoli and Sardines). You even get little gems from the O'Hare Shopping Network. It's a silly additional feature, but it's pretty amusing and adds to the randomness of the film's humor. This featurette also lengthens the film with nearly eight minutes of fake commercials.
Expedition of Truffula Valley - This is the classic interactive map featurette on a Blu-Ray disc that allows watchers to interact with the map and learn more about the film's characters and watch additional videos. For example, if you select one of the trees, you can see character profiles for Pipsqueak and Lou and then there are two videos related to them. The first is a how-to-draw Lou video, featuring one of the story artists. The second is a brief storyboard scene of the bears catching marshmallows in their mouths. You can also check out concept art and other neat production treats for all of the movie's main characters.
Once-ler's Wagon - This is a little interactive screen that shows items in Once-ler's Wagon on the ground. You can then select them and see little animations from the film involving those items. When you're done, you can select the icon of a boot, which calls over the Lorax to kick the wagon, spewing out different items for you to click on. It's all pretty short and pointless actually, but the kids might enjoy it.
Get Out of Town - This is a remote-based game where you can control Ted on his motor-unicycle to navigate through a side-scrolling game.
Truffula Run is another game where you can select from three different levels of difficulty in which you control The Lorax as he walks through a field collecting berries. You use your remote to direct The Lorax around tree stumps as he strolls to the finish line.
Seuss To Screen (4:27) - The voice cast and crew briefly talk about the source material and what it was like bringing the story to the big screen. It's a shame this wasn't longer and more in-depth, actually. It serves as the only main behind-the-scenes featurette and is ultimately just a tease.
"Let It Grow" Sing Along (3:42) - For fans of the film and its music, the electronic pop/dance song "Let It Grow" is isolated here as a sing along, complete with lyrics, as seen in the film's end credits.
Grow Your Own Truffula Tree - There's a little seedling icon at the bottom of the main menu. After you click on it once and then go explore the other Blu-Ray disc features, your seedling will sprout into a Truffula tree!- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 8/4/12)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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