If there’s no match, does the fish say ‘Go Me’?


Theatrical Release Date: 03/02/2012
Director: Chris Renaud
Co-Director: Kyle Balda
Featuring the Voices of: Danny Devito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, Nasim Pedrad
Rated: PG for brief mild language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes


Trailer:

This is my happy face.

2010 seemed to usher in a new player into the animation studio field with Illumination Entertainment’s “Despicable Me“. It didn’t have the depth of story Pixar normally brings or revolve around princesses like a Disney effort. Instead, it took a story that could just have easily been a live-action effort (minus the hilarious minions) and simply gave audiences a fun ride.

Relying on that pedigree in its marketing and retaining one of the directors (Chris Renaud), the studio’s newest release is “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax”. Likely familiar to most people who were read books as a child, or saw the TV special, moviegoers probably know what they’re getting when they enter the theater in terms of plot. A young boy hopes to impress a girl by finding a tree, which were thought to have all been cut down in order to manufacture multi-use garments called thneeds. We’re told how rampant industrialization destroyed the environment but given hope that it can be corrected if people change their ways.

Seuss was well known for his inclusion of strong messages within his books and this is probably the most obvious of them all: pushing for people to think more about how industry affects the environment and believing that one person’s actions can make a difference. That message is brought forth loud and clear in the film, with such a heavy touch that even Greenpeace members would feel it was preachy.

However, despite the not-so-subtle nature of the story, if the screening audience I saw it with is any indication, your kids won’t care they’re being lectured to. I can’t remember the last animated feature which kept kids glued to their seats like this one did. Not only that, after the first few minutes, they kept their mouths shut too. Seriously, it was impressive.

Most of that is due to the bright and fantastical hues and shapes that are the hallmark of Seuss’ work. Even with 3D glasses on, the colors pop and the strange creatures and buildings will fascinate children of all ages. What works best, in fact, are the animals that populate the forest prior to its clear-cutting. The little bear-like creatures and the singing fish are adorable and funny, creating the most enjoyable moments of the film. If the entire movie had been about the activities in the forest, this would have been pure entertainment at its finest. However, there are some elements that not only didn’t work, they were detrimental to the overall project.

Starting with the least egregious offense are the humans in the town. They’re just generally uninteresting; simple archetypes marginally voiced by Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle and yes, even Betty White doesn’t get to do a lot with her character (sorry, Betty). Whenever the story flips back to their activities, the joy factor drops considerably.

But what truly blocks this film from becoming something special are the songs. They’re not just bad, they’re not just terrible, they’re AWFUL. The opening song worried me that I was in for a very long 94 minutes, then the story kicked in and I was marginally appeased, the back story in the forest was told and I really got into the whole affair, then another song came and I was wondering how important it was to stay in the theater. I realize that every song can’t be a winner, but these would shame the definition of loser. And it’s not just one or two of the musical numbers, it’s EVERY musical number. They’re all painful to sit through and one’s best course of action is to concentrate on background action to ride out the storm.

That being said, I go back to the notion that the kids ate this up like whatever sugar-laced concoction goes with milk these days. Also to the film’s benefit is some very good 3D; Renaud and his team learned from previous failings in this regard and got it right. A 3 out of 5, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” has plenty of problems but a few high points, a positive (albeit clumsily delivered) message, and will keep the little tax deductions you’ve given names quiet for an hour and a half. If that’s all you need, by all means give it a look-see.

3 out of 53D Yes