My DVD reviews now take a more personal approach (and a shorter one) than my cinematic reviews. I’m going to look at what I thought when I first saw it, and then what I make of it on second (sometimes third) viewing. Sometimes the two aren’t always the same…
First Impression: During a film festival where there were lots of serious films shot in muted colours, along came an animation that was funny and bright and had two songs that were really insanely catchy. I really liked The Lorax and became a bit of an apologist for the film in the face of increasing criticism. I argued that the unsubtle delivery of its anti-capitalist, pro-ecology message was necessary to get it into the heads of the kids. If they can come away from a film with a greater respect for the world, and realising that money isn’t everything, well that’s surely a good thing. I thought it was fun and vibrant enough to make the flaws in it largely irrelevant; yeah it wasn’t the deepest or most moving of films, but it was engaging enough for me to watch it a second time on a plane when I was bored of heavily edited low budget comedies. The second time the only things I really remembered were the insanely catchy songs.
Third Impression: This really doesn’t stand up to repeat viewing, which is a crying shame for all those parents who will inevitably have to watch it again and again when their kids find the bears and fish particularly hilarious. All the problems of the film become very apparent, and the shine begins to wear off when you realise the jokes aren’t very funny and the animation makes you feel a little bit nauseous. It’s so bright and colourful, which matches Dr. Seuss’ original drawings, but it lacks the rough, pencil edged charm of those books. This is as glossy and slick as the town of Thneedville, and even the candy colours of the Truffula trees feel like the direct product of a computer (all computer animations are, of course, the products of computers, but they shouldn’t feel like it). It has all the crazy curves and whimsical lines of Dr Seuss but the spirit behind the drawings is painfully lacking in this big screen version of the book. Even Horton Hears A Who did the Seussian aesthetic marginally better.
Not only that, but the meaningless plot built up around Seuss’ sparser tale, of a boy trying to impress a girl by finding some trees, is utterly vacuous and fails to leave any lasting impression. It is immensely frustrating that the motive for ecological action is a trite love story, totally undermining the message that the world won’t change unless someone cares an awful lot. The only thing our hero cares about a whole awful lot is the one dimensional heroine, Audrey. Audrey is played by Taylor Swift, the only cast member who is also a professional singer. Curiously, she is one of the only characters that doesn’t have a single line to sing in the whole film. This parallel plot about bringing trees back and fighting evil capitalist O’Hare is just really half-hearted, like the film as a whole. The message – about protecting the environment and not chasing riches – is still a valid one, but it’s difficult to care when the film feels so lazy. The first and last songs, however, are still insanely catchy.
For a film that encourages us not to tolerate mass produced rubbish, The Lorax should not be as cynical and as bland as the products it scorns.
Extras: Short doc in which the cast and crew express their love of Dr. Seuss, deleted scene, a half-hearted game and some drawing lessons from a rather endearing animator. You, too, can draw a Barbaloot!