Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

 Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

I was always a bit of a book fiend growing up and I think that love of books first started with Dr. Seuss. Even though a lot of what he wrote he made up as he went, he was a brilliant storyteller who, most of the time, could give you a moral without needing to bash you over the head with it. He was clever, colorful and someone who, years later, is influencing people of every age. And because it is a tradition in Hollywood that if we write a book we need to somehow make it into a movie, Dr. Seuss's are an obvious place to go to. The early cartoons were brilliant and are still shown today, but Hollywood loves updating and re-doing so of course we've seen numerous iterations of many of his stories, the latest craze now being CGI animated films after two less than popular live action films. The first was the critically well received and box office smash Horton Hears a Who and now it's Dr. Seuss's ode to the trees "The Lorax."
 The story of the Lorax is split in two between the past and the present. In the present everything is plastic, polluted and fake and air is sold in water jugs to people who want fresh air. Most people are content and happy with the status quo but there are a few people who aren't happy with it, or at least they want to see some change. Ted (Zac Efron) is a 12 year old kid who fawns over an older girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift), who would love nothing more than to see a real tree. Ted, being blinded by love, decides to throw caution to the wind and search out for a tree. After getting pushed in the right direction he meets the Once-ler (Ed Helms) and that's where we see the past portion of the story. In the past, the Once-ler is an optimistic guy who wants to make it in the world by selling his new invention. To make said invention he needs to chop down the trees which provide the necessary tools to make the invention. After chopping down one tree though he meets The Lorax (Danny DeVito), a being who speaks on behalf of the trees and tries to make sure he doesn't chop down more.

The story bounces back and forth between the past and present and for the most part it's pretty seamless. Unlike a few films recently (I'm looking at you Iron Lady and J. Edgar), you usually know for the most part when you are in the present and when you're in the past. There's even usually a subtle pallet change in how things are colored when they shift back and forth (if you look for it you'll notice it). It's a well told tale, albeit slightly on the nose with it's message. Seuss knew how to use subtlety to deliver his message, not so much in this film, although that's on the screenwriters more than Seuss. The romance between Ted and Audrey, one sided as it may be, also feels a little underdeveloped and not totally fleshed out. Honestly besides Ted, Once-ler, The Lorax and maybe the villain, nobody is really all that fleshed out. We get glimpses but never really any full motivation for most of the characters. It's still enjoyable though and there are a couple good laughs spread throughout, even though this film really tries to go more for the kids. 
Therein lies one of my biggest flaws with the movie: tone. It can't seem to really figure out if it wants to be a kids film that appeals to everyone or a kids film that only appeals to kids. Some of the jokes, plot points and the choices in actors leans more towards the former but the lowest common denominator (like jokes for only the littlest of kids) jokes in the film and the songs (yes this is a musical) make it seem like the latter. The songs, save for one or two, are very bouncy, sing-a-long kid songs and for anyone over a certain age is basically torture. The other two are good for everyone but feel like they may go over the heads of the younger audience. See where I'm going with this? The Lorax has an identity crisis.

Where this film shines, and where I can forgive a lot of it's identity issues, is in the animation and voice work. The animation is vivid, lush, beautiful and quite possibly one of the best animated films ever. It's candy for the eyes and is amazing to look at. You can get lost in it's detail and I'd watch this again just to look at the animation. If nothing else, see it for the animation. The voice work also shines almost as brightly with Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, and Zac Effron giving really great performances. The first two especially really carry this movie and they do a wonderful job portraying their characters. You really care about them and want them to do well, even if their motivations aren't always the best.

Overall The Lorax is a good film that suffers from an identity crisis. It has amazing animation and voice work but can be a bit on the nose for some with it's message and has a problem figuring out it's audience. I'd say it's still worth seeing though.

MY VERDICT: SEE IT (3.5 out of 5)

No comments:

Post a Comment