Normally, there’s a bit of debate as far as who is the best withinhis or her chosen field. Is Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, etc., the greatest baseball hitter of all time? It’s hard to rank one above the other, let alone name the number one.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule.
One such exception is Dr. Seuss, in the field of children’s literature. I may be biased because I grew up partly in Springfield, Mass., Dr. Seuss’ hometown, but there really would be no arguing with me on this issue except for a laugh and my best “you are so wrong, how can you even think that?” face.
So naturally, the adaptations of his work to other mediums is a bit of a challenge. The first major adaptation was the infinitely regrettable “The Cat in the Hat,” with Mike Myers. The second was the missed-the-point-but-okay-I-guess “Horton Hears a Who,” with Jim Carrey and Steve Carell.
Hollywood, never having learned the definition of insanity as the repetition of a failed task expecting a different result, has since come out with a third film, “The Lorax.”
I wanted to like this movie. I really did. Unfortunately, it’s an extremely muddled film that attempts to be several different things in a relatively short amount of time.
There is almost no appreciation of the wordplay of Seuss’ writing. There are times when characters burst into song, and on all occasions I felt that the music was both taking me out of the movie and rather poorly done.
And, as a Taylor Swift fan, I’m not exactly sure why they had her voice the love interest if she wasn’t going to sing. There’s not really a good reason to have Zac Efron and Ed Helms sing when arguably the world’s most popular current songwriter just does voice acting.
The language of the singing was all wrong, too. Heck, the language of the movie was all wrong. David Edelstein of New York Magazine wrote that the language of Seuss was used sparingly, and reduced to a joke, writing, “So one of the only lines that is from the book, that does have Dr. Seuss’ sublime whimsy, is basically made fun of, or at least, dragged down to Earth.”
For those of you who wonder why Dr. Seuss’ words had such flow and charm, his use and mastery of anapestic tetrameter, amphibrachic tetrameter and trochaic tetrameter is unparalleled in modern literature. Why would the writers and creators of this movie choose to exclude the most dominant feature of his work?
Not to mention the fact that they chose to put awkward 3-D scenes in the movie, as though they went back after they had made it and said to themselves, “How can we crudely pander even more?”
I do not wish to be utterly negative, as there are some parts of the movie I enjoyed. It has its moments, and Danny DeVito in particular does some wonderful work as the Lorax.
And above all, it’s unambiguously good that there is a message of pro-nature conservation and anti-consumerism in the movie, though it’s always a bit ironic when the movie industry tries to combine the latter with toys, commercial tie-ins, dolls, DVDs, official soundtracks, and of course you’re paying fourteen dollars to be able to buy popcorn and soda for one while you watch the movie.
I guess what I’m trying to write is that while Pixar and Dreamworks rule the children’s movie world, there is always room for others to join the fray with either adapted or original works.
As much as I dislike the crowd of people who inevitably say “the book is better than the movie” even when it’s absolutely not, that crowd is right this time.
This is now three strikes, Hollywood. You’re on notice. We do not want “Green Eggs and Ham.” Not in a (DVD) box, not with a (20th Century) Fox (that’s trying to sell you the extended edition Blu-Ray special), not in a house (it might stain the walls), and not with a mouse (that’s arbitrarily inserted as “comic relief” because the producers think it will sell toys).
Yes, stop adapting Dr. Seuss, unless you’re going to do it well. We already have a modern form of Dr. Seuss—it’s called Pixar. The modern form of the Lorax is Wall-E. Go see that, instead.
Or, better yet, just go re-read “The Lorax.” This is not a necessary movie.
2 out of 4 stars.