“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot. Nothing will get better. It’s not” - Dr. Seuss
The above quote is unquestionably my all time favourite from the oft-quoted Dr. Seuss. It forms the crux of the entire messaging embedded within The Lorax, his magnificent tale focusing on the plight of the environment and the risks that industrialization and corporate greed can have. Written in 1971, the story was on the cutting edge of social discourse at the time, but move ahead 40 years and the messages of conservationism effortlessly flowing through his trademark rhythmic style are more relevant than ever.
The Lorax is my favourite Dr. Seuss story and its one that I have read to my children on numerous occassions. One can only imagine my delight about 18 months ago when I learned that The Lorax would be turned into a CG-3D featured film, as well as my fear that in doing so the messaging may be diluted for the sake of entertainment. I was able to meet both my fears and anticipation head-on this past Sunday when I received an invite to attend a special advance screening of the film along with my family. It gave me a chance to see the film ahead of the March 2nd release date and discover whether I should in fact sing its praises or curse its release.
Well I’m singing loud and I’m telling you now…every single parent who gives a damn about the environment and the legacy we are bestowing upon our children needs to go see The Lorax Movie – and they need to bring their entire family with them.
To make a children’s story into a full length feature film one clearly needs to stretch the boundaries of where the story extends. In the movie we learn of a manufactured town called “Thneedville” where everything there is made of plastics, metals and non organic matter. There are no trees in Thneedville for no trees exist any longer. We learn of the fact that Thneedville is controlled by Mr. O’Hare (voiced by Rob Riggle), a corporate baron who makes immense profits by keeping all citizens of Thneedville inside the enclosed walls of the city while selling his bottled air.
The creation of Thneedville by the sreenwriters shows us in the beginning of the film what life evolved into after the Once-ler (Ed Helms) chopped down all the Truffula trees due to his reckless manufacturing of this Thneeds. It’s from this point that the boy in the original story, who earns the name Ted as well as the voice of Zac Efron extends away from the screen-adapted Thneedville in search of Truffula Trees, and then takes the movie along the stories original route. Ted’s quest to find a Truffula tree is fed by a crush on Audrey (Taylor Swift), a teenaged artist and visionary, and eventually leads him to the home of the Once-ler.
The Lorax is the mythical creature who speaks for the trees and is voiced by Danny DeVito. Personally I had a hard time accepting DeVito in the beginning for in all the times I had read the story to my kids and made voices along the way, The Lorax never once sounded like him. However after seeing the film I am far more accepting of DeVito’s characterization since his trademark delivery actually did more to enhance the Lorax than detract.
While 3D films are no longer the hot commodity that we saw a couple years ago, I felt the addition of 3D to this movie works. As this movie will draw both parents and children alike, the 3D visual elements will certainly be enough to keep the kids enthralled. The river rapids scene was especially enjoyable when watched in 3D. My 2 year old daughter was attending her 1st ever feature film and my wife and I were worried about both her attention span and her reaction to the glasses. In both cases we were amazed at her focus and her love of seeing things jump out at her from the screen.
What most impressed me though about the movie is how the core messages embedded in the original story were both kept and enhanced. The idea that protecting and preserving our environment cannot happen without personal ownership by all is delivered in a manner that lets the viewer understand while being entertained. While the bad guy does wear the corporate titans hat, capitalism isn’t outright villified. In fact the journey of the Once-ler in the movie, from idealist, to enterpreneur, to guilt ridden recluse eventually all the way to redeeming mentor and and an idealist once again tells a hopeful tale rather than a grim one.
The well known truths about how nothing will change unless people begin to care enough are powerfully told in this movie. On the way home my children enthusiastically discussed the many ways that they can make a difference with respect to the challenges we face with the environment. They each raved endlessly about how much they loved the film and how they truly understood the lessons being taught, and as an environmentally activist parent it left me feeling inspired and enthusiastic about the potential this film has to light a fire under the butts of our youth.
There will no doubt be fringe groups who will rail against this film as some sort of extremist dogma, but I’m quite confident that they will get little attention and even less credibililty. This is a film that is entertaining, inspiring and educational all wrapped into one and if the total package brings fear to the deniers and skeptics, then what better endorsement would an eco-conscious family need?!
I have no reservations whatsoever in telling everyone that The Lorax is a must see movie for all families. It will make you laugh, it might make you cry but it most certainly will give you plenty to talk about with your children for a long time afterwards.