The Lorax (PG)
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This is a 2012 CGI movie based on the 1971 Dr. Seuss book "The Lorax," which I've never read. (The movie should not be confused with the 1972 animated TV special based on the book, which I've never seen.) Apparently a lot of critics thought the movie wasn't very good, mainly because it glossed over the spirit of the book, or something. I can't really comment with any authority on that, but at least I read the little bit that Wikipedia has to say about the plot of the book, and honestly... I have no frickin' clue what such critics are talking about. The morals of both the book and the movie are apparently about environmentalism. I don't think that message was lost at all in the movie. Sure, there's some stuff added to make it a longer and more entertaining story, but the fundamental message seems pretty much the same, to me.
Anyway... it's set in this city called Thneedville, which has no real trees or nature, everything is synthetic. And there's a lot of pollution, apparently, though everything looks nice. But... people buy fresh air from this rich (and evil) businessman named O'Hare (who I guess wasn't in the book). It seems kind of odd to me, because basically we're just informed that the air is bad, which is why they need bottled air (which comes in what look like water cooler bottles). But honestly, the air outside looks fine, and people seem to breathe perfectly normally. But whatever. Um... so, there's this boy named Ted Wiggins (voiced by Zac Efron), who has a crush on a girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift; Audrey is probably a few years older than Ted, and I guess she wasn't in the book). Her greatest wish is to see a real tree, so Ted decides he wants to get one for her. He lives with his mother and grandmother, and asks them about real trees. His mom isn't interested in such things, but his grandmother (voiced by Betty White) is more helpful. She tells him to find someone called the Once-ler, who lives outside of town.
So, Ted leaves town and finds the reclusive Once-ler, who tells him a story, over the course of a few days, about how long ago he came to this forest where truffula trees grew (and there were plenty of comical bears and birds and humming fish). The Once-ler had this plan to create a very useful product called a thneed, but apparently he didn't know what it would be made from, until he discovered the truffula trees. He chopped down a tree to obtain its fluffy foliage, and that act summoned the guardian of the forest, called the Lorax (Danny DeVito). The Lorax tried to convince the Once-ler to stop cutting down trees, and eventually he agreed. But he'd already made a thneed from the first tree he cut down, and tried to sell it in town. He was unsuccessful for awhile, but eventually it became very popular. The demand for thneeds increased, so he called his family to come help him with his new business, and eventually all the trees were cut down. And he came to regret his actions.
Um... so, Ted has to keep going back to the Once-ler to hear installments of his story, and meanwhile, O'Hare and his goons try to stop him from going. But eventually the Once-ler gives Ted a truffula seed, which Ted has to try to plant in the center of Thneedville (with help from his mother, grandmother, and Audrey), while O'Hare continues trying to stop him. It's fairly predictable that the good guys win in the end.
There, I've told you pretty much the whole story, but I promise you should still be able to enjoy the movie after reading my review. The animation is pretty cool, and there are plenty of funny bits. The songs aren't great, but they're reasonably fun. There are some things that don't really make sense to me, like why the Once-ler became a hermit, aside from guilt. I mean, once all the truffula trees were gone, his business was over, but by then he must have been a millionaire. And if he had a seed all along, I have no idea why he didn't just plant it himself, years ago. For that matter... I'm not sure about the state of the logging industry when the book was written, but these days I'm sure they have reforestation plans. Whether that's because they care about the environment or because they want to ensure they have more trees to cut down in the future is rather beside the point; either way, the message of the movie is pretty much rendered moot. Though I guess there's still nothing wrong with trying to get kids to care about the environment. Um... and I shall be honest, one of the main reasons I wanted to see the movie was because in the previews there was this cute redhead girl (Audrey). She turns out not to be a major character, but she's important, in a way. And, you know... she's cute. I guess. Oh, and on a fairly unrelated note, I wanted to mention that throughout the movie I kept thinking about Ed Wuncler, a character in The Boondocks, whose name apparently derived from the the Once-ler of the book. And... I dunno what else to say. It's a decent movie, that's all. Not great, but decent.