Everything about this movie screams mediocrity, but the most average part of the movie is its story. Nothing about this movie’s story differentiates it from most other children’s films. You can tell exactly what is going to happen from the minute the three young girls arrive in the movie, and every trope that one would think a story like this could have is present. There is the scene where Gru finally begins to feel for the kids, after a first act of swearing he was only going to use them for his nefarious purposes. There is the montage where Gru is supposed to be working on his evil plan, but instead begins spending more time with the kids. And, possibly most clichéd of all, there is the conflict where Gru’s moon heist falls on the same day as the girls dance recital. None of these elements are altered or innovated on to make a different-feeling film, but just allowed to take their normal course to make an overall bland experience.
And that’s the best way to describe the movie: bland. The voice acting is fine, with Steve Carell leading the charge doing an odd, somewhat Eastern European accent. The animation is a bit iffy, (especially considering How to Train Your Dragon was released the same year and the animation in that was astounding) but, considering it is the studio's first film, it’s passable. The humor is what you would expect, not funny but certainly not too bad. The minions, who became one of the past few years’ most annoying trends, aren’t nearly as annoying as they have become in more recent films. At the end of the day, what we get is a movie that does everything just right enough to be passable, but just wrong enough to not be memorable. It’s fine, but that’s about all it is.
My biggest issue with The Lorax is present in every feature length adaptation of a Dr. Seuss work, and it’s not that hard to understand why. This movie, even at its mere hour and thirty minute runtime, feels insanely padded. Dr. Seuss books aren’t known for their length, and thus the stories have to be elongated in order to maintain feature length. Unfortunately, The Lorax fails at elongating the story in a meaningful way, filling time with useless musical numbers and a lengthy chase scene that add nothing to the story or characters. Much of the movie is bogged down in padding, and the main character even jokes about how the Once-ler forces him to hear the story of his life in installments rather than all at once. With the amount of padding that is present in the film, it gives a lot of time for the audience to reflect on how much better off they would be just reading the original story.
Not only does the padding make the movie feel bloated and unnecessary, it also deludes the message of the original story. The Seuss book tells the simple story of a man overtaken by greed, who regrets the choices that he made which destroyed the environment around him. The message of the original is about saving the world we have, before we lose it. And while the movie does keep some of those messages intact (the only good moments of the film are those which mirror the original story exactly), adding a very generic villain who is obviously supposed to represent modern-day corporations not only dates the film, but makes the story feel like it is more about pointing fingers than it is about righting wrongs. And with its lack of fun comedy or any other redeeming factors, deluding the message of a Seuss story is an offense that I can’t easily forgive. While it’s not the worst Seuss adaptation (The Cat in the Hat is one of the most deplorable films I’ve ever seen), The Lorax continues a trend of bad Seussian-based films that sully the works of one of history’s best children writers.
Last week looked at films based on the works of Roald Dahl in preparation for The BFG.