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Friday, July 27, 2012
I think in retrospect Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth (and possibly Pixar’s Wall-E) caused public awareness of environmental issues to reach a tipping point.
Subconsciously we all tacitly agreed that it was all probably a bit too late now so we might as well forget about it and hope it sorts itself out. Nobody’s pretending that this is a dignified solution, but it may be the most practical one available.
This animated feature, taken from a Dr Seuss book, is still pounding out the environmental message though, tying it into more contemporary anti-capitalist themes and not even being particularly subtle about it – at one moment you can see the motto “Too Big to Fail” on the wall of the factory that is cutting down all the trees.
It is set in Thneedville, a materialistic wonderland that looks like a garish mix of Pepperland and Noddy’s Toytown, where everything is artificial and everybody is happy. Here a young boy (Zac Efron) sets out to woo his lady (Taylor Swift) by discovering a real tree.
Events in Thneedville, though, are just a framing device for the real story in which the Once-ler (Ed Helm), a bright eyed young entrepreneur, ends up destroying all the trees despite the best efforts of The Lorax (Danny DeVito), a Super Mario Bros./Gethsemane Sam hybrid who is the spokesman for the tree.
This latest Dr Seuss adaptation comes from the company behind Despicable Me. Visually the style is similar to that film and previous Dr Seuss film Horton Hears a Who! – lots of bright, colours and round, cuddly creatures. I hear it called trippy but often it looks like a Tim Burton animation from the opposite end of the spectrum. It may occasionally be a little too odd for children but is mostly fun, the musical numbers are quite catchy and the 3D is definitely noticeable and probably worth the surcharge.
The standard problem in adapting Dr Seuss books is that they don’t fill up 90 minutes and nobody can write quite like him. So shortly after The Lorax introduces the film with some authentic Seuss prose, a character is heard to say: “Would you like to see something really cool?”
The film changes the landscape of the book, so that the present reality is Stepford-perfect as opposed to the bleak and desolate one in the book. It makes sense in the context of a children’s film but the metaphor for consumerist society doesn’t quite hold. Western society is filled with unhappy, frustrated people who seem to get unhappier and more frustrated the more shiny toys they get to play with. In Thneedville, everybody seems to be genuinely happy and content.
THE LORAX (U)
Directors: Chris Renauld and Kyle Balda
Featuring voices of Danny Devito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White and Rob Riggle
Length: 86 mins