The Lorax, by Cameron J. Czaja

For a while now I was indecisive on what movie I should review next for The Legionnaire. Then I realized that Earth Day was approaching soon, so I decided that my next review will be Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I beat around the bush with this one. I actually strongly dislike this film and it’s one of the worst animated films that I’ve seen made by a big studio in the past decade. So why did I choose this film to review you might ask? Well, for starters, I wanted to cover a film that talks about the importance of protecting our environment and it’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a bad film, so here we are. Also, I usually try to avoid spoilers when writing my reviews, but expect a few in this one.

Before I go any further, let me now describe the plot to The Lorax, an hour and twenty-six minute film based off a small picture book. Sigh. . . . In this Dr. Seuss adaptation we are introduced to Thneedville, a walled city where everything is artificial (including the plants). The number one consumed product is air (no seriously it is), which is distributed by the O’Hare Air company. In this city we follow Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) who has a crush on a girl named Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift), and after he discovers that she has a fascination for real trees. From there he decides to try and get her one. Not knowing where to get one, Ted’s grandmother (voiced by Betty White) tells him about a person called the Once-ler who lives outside and knows what has happened to the trees. Desperate, Ted decides to venture outside the walled city and tries to find the Once-ler. After going through a barren wasteland that’s polluted and uninhabited, Ted eventually finds the Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms) and from there he explains to Ted why everything is the way it is now. The film is then told through a flashback and we see a young Once-ler (who is an inventor at this point) as he ventures off to a forest full of truffula trees. After chopping one tree down for his invention called the thneed, he is confronted by The Lorax (voiced by Danny Devito) who is a creature who speaks for the trees. He warns him of the harm of what would happen if he continues his work of deforestation, but the Once-ler starts to ignore him once his business starts booming and his product becomes more in demand. After some time passes, the Once-ler fully realizes the Lorax’s warning, but it was too late as the forest that was once a beautiful environment is now a wasteland that has become an unlivable place to be in. After the Once-ler concludes his story he gives Ted the last truffula seed and hopes he can start everything anew. The only person that could stop Ted is Mayor O’Hare (who also happens to be head of O’Hare Air), who finds out about Ted’s seed and does everything to stop him as newly grown trees would be a threat to him and his air business due to them producing oxygen.

Just to make things clear, I actually do like the original book and the television special that was made in the ‘70s, but The Lorax was an unbearable film to watch as it is a simple story stretched out to a full-length feature that padded the runtime with unnecessary filler and lame jokes. If I had rolled my eyes back further I would’ve gotten a headache. But I’m getting ahead of ahead of myself. Instead, I’ll break down why this was (to me) one of the worse animated movies of the 2010s.

The main focus of The Lorax is protecting the environment (specifically the trees) and it’s something I can admire as I like to consider myself pro-environment. But the problem here is that the film does a poor job covering that topic. Instead, it focuses more on the crazy antics of the forest creatures that the Once-ler interacts with during his time in the forest. Now that may be a just a thirty-minute part of the film, but the original book/television special only focused on the forest and it was told much more effective than this new version did. The only part of the film where we see the Once-ler destroying the environment for his personal gain is told through a song montage that’s titled “How bad can I be” and at the end of the song it’ll make you go “ok what just happened?” I don’t mind an animated film having crazy antics and some filler if it’s needed, but once that becomes a distraction to the main theme that’s when it’s a problem. Then again, I’m not surprised by this direction as this was made by Illumination, who are the same people that created the Despicable Me franchise, which is another set of films that gives me a headache.

As I mentioned before, the original story only focused on the forest and the two characters of the Lorax and the Once-ler. Bringing in other elements characters and settings to The Lorax was extremely unnecessary as not only is it being used for filler, but there are some elements that don’t make sense. So the mayor doesn’t want trees because it’ll ruin his business. But does that mean no one else knows about the importance of trees? Also how did Audrey know about the trees? As you can tell this story has a lot of plot-holes in it and it was something that constantly bugged me when I first watched it.

This next part of criticism of The Lorax may not be as valid today compared to when it was released, but the one thing that irritated me when I watching this film was the commercial tie-ins that this film was associated with when it was first released back in 2012. I kid you not, one commercial that they had was for Mazda, and it is still on YouTube. This is like if a priest was giving a homily about materialism and why it’s wrong but at the same time he’s wearing gold jewelry and diamonds, and he drives a vehicle worth six figures. A prime example of the phrase you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

If I had to say anything positive about The Lorax, it would be this: we inherited the Earth from God and as of this moment it the only planet in our existence that supports us. It’s always good to have a message once in a while about the importance of protecting our planet, even if it’s from a bad movie.

As you can tell, I don’t recommend The Lorax at all as the book/television does a much better job of getting the message across and it doesn’t take up over an hour of your time. If there’s another thing I can appreciate from this film, it was that it gave me a warning on how the studio Illumination was going to handle their future properties such as The Grinch, which was mediocre film as well. But that’s a review for another day.

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