Saturday, September 15, 2012

Movie Review: "The Lorax" by Alex Schopp

Release: 2012
Directors: Chris Renaud & Kyle Balda
Written By: Ken Daurio (screenplay), Cinco Paul (screenplay), Dr. Seuss (book)
Actors: Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Betty White
Rated: PG
Run Time: 86 min

As much as I expected I probably wouldn't ever get around to seeing this movie, chance had it that I ended up in front of it last night. I wouldn't have guessed that I would or should be the one at this site to do a review for an animated film, but since I don't think anyone else has gotten around to it yet, I'll take a stab. While I found enough to entertain me for the 86 minutes of film, keep in mind that I'm not the most affectionate towards animated features. If you are, then you'll probably enjoy this a bit more than I did. But for those who don't have huge admirations for the style, then you might fall in line similarly here. And regardless, I think there's enough provided by the film to make the watch worth it for just about anyone.

"The Lorax" came out earlier this year and caught the country by storm. Making more than $200MM in theater grosses, this was a huge surprise for Universal. The film, based off the Dr. Seuss book of the same name, takes place in the walled city of Thneed-Ville, where everything is artificial and even the air is a commodity. And while none of the youngsters in town have ever seen a tree before, a boy named Ted hopes to win the heart of his dream girl, Audrey, by finding a way to make one grow. When he learns of her wish to see a real tree, Ted seeks out the Once-ler, a ruined old businessman outside of town in a stark wasteland. Upon hearing of how the hermit gave into his greed for profits and devastated the land over the protests of The Lorax, Ted is inspired to undo the disaster. However, the greedy Mayor of Thneed-Ville, Aloysius O'Hare, has made his fortune exploiting the environmental collapse and is determined to stop the boy from undermining his business.

The film takes place in two different times - Ted and Audrey's time, where there are no trees to be found, and the Once-ler and The Lorax's time, long ago when the trees were plenty and no man interfered with the Eden-like field of trees and wildlife. They were both necessary for the explanation of the story and to show what a difference one person can make (both good and bad), but I did feel that things were rushed on both ends. I felt like once both stories were finally starting to open up and connect with each other, they both rushed to finish up; I never felt a comfortable amount of closure with the story. This is my biggest qualm with the film - taking more time to let these stories and characters breathe would have been very welcomed from my end. Instead, the movie flew by and it didn't feel like I watched more than an episode of a cartoon television show.

The "modern day" storyline was much less interesting to me than the Once-ler's backstory, which provided details on how the city became what it was. And most notably, because The Lorax was only in this portion of the film. For the film having the same name as this caracter, he sure didn't have much screen time (think something similar to "Beetlejuice" here). But DeVito was great as The Lorax, and him along with the goofy forest creatures did provide for the most entertainment in the picture. It's obviously geared much more towards a younger audience, but there are still moments of entertainment for all age levels.

The present day stuff was much too fast-paced for me, and mostly just focused on Ted zipping around town on his little motor vehicle. Outside of a few brief moments, there was really no true story development with these characters - the time is spent trying to keep kids with low attention spans fixed on the screen. Again, while I understand that younger audiences get bored much quicker these days and films have to constantly keep moving to keep many audiences interested, it was more wasteful to me than anything.

The animation (I watched this on Blu-Ray) was beautiful throughout. Dr. Seuss always had great imagery in his books, and it looked really neat translated to vibrant, hi-def imagery on my big screen. The styles aren't trying to look realistic in any regards, and it's meant more to mirror the imagery of the books than to be state-of-the-art animation, so I understand that and don't take away points for things being non-texturized or very deep. The colors were all very vibrant though, and it really did look awesome in high definition. And since the film is only a breezy 86 minutes, it's not too difficult to sit through if you are just wanting to enjoy some of the animation stylings.

Obviously the big point of the film was on environmental awareness. While it's already a pretty obvious theme just from the synopsis, the film doesn't hold back in its execution of being a "green" movie. With air being in plastic bottles, and big business talk of how they can sell people stuff that should be free, and discussing their marketing and manufacturing plans (don't worry, it really isn't that in depth), it's a huge blow to big business and mass consumption. And don't get me wrong, for a country trying to "go green", this is a great film for young kids to see. And I'm all for making the environment more efficient and cleaner, I was just surprised by how hard it hit home with these themes. It makes saving the environment cool though, and definitely makes the point, as I stated above, that it only takes one person to make a difference.

Overall, I can't really see a way that anyone could completely dislike this movie. The story felt rushed in many places, and there wasn't nearly as much character development as I'd like to see, but it was a very nice family-friendly film. It's probably worth showing to most young'ens before our planet gets to a point where we actually have towns that don't have trees (it really doesn't seem like that much of a stretch if you think about it), and it really is a good, clear message to our youth - something you don't find in many films anymore. The voice cast is all pretty good, with Ed Helms and DeVito probably making the best impressions on the picture. The animations look good, and while most of the songs didn't do much for me, Helms' "How Bad Can I Be?" felt pretty powerful.

If they weren't trying to cater to the younger audiences, I would have loved to see 30 more minutes put into this film for further character definition and depth. I think that really could have went a long way. But even still, if you like animated films, you should enjoy this one. If not, you probably aren't missing much if you never take it in.