Tooncrap #15 - The Lorax
How bad can it be? Pretty damn bad.
Universal Pictures: 2012
Written by: Raymond Gallant
I knew this was coming, I should just face the facts
I knew soon enough I would tackle the Lorax
Another film that found joy in abuse
of the great works of a legend named Seuss
Who gave us cats in hats, grinches, and creatures named who
Books that brought joy to me and maybe even you too
But the joy that we had for these books so good
Would soon catch the eye of lazy Hollywood
Whose creative bucket was ever so dry
that they just remake films instead of just try.
From a green Jim Carrey, to Mike Myers so crass
Who thought it was wise to give us cat ass?
Even in CGI the films were mediocre pap
And this film du jour is this week's edition of Tooncrap.
For the next Seuss book they took was of a creature so orange.
So... um... Dammit, nothing rhymes with Orange!
I know this one will probably be one that people will contend with me
over, but honestly the 2012 adaptation of The Lorax is a bad film. Not
just because it's an atrocious adaptation, or a fine example of everyone
involved not practicing what the film preaches, but it just comes off as
bland and forgettable.
So how do you take a story that even the original half hour special
needed to pad out with songs? Let's find out as we review this thing.
We open our film with the titular Lorax who tells us that he speaks for
As well as gas guzzling SUVs.
He welcomes us to Thneedville, which is the main setting to our story.
The town of Thneedville is a land where everything is fake and
manufactured. From the trees, to the grass, to even the air. And
everybody's fine with it. Thus begins a lot of the filler that never
appeared in the original book.
I get it, it's a near 90 minute film, and the material needs to be
expanded upon to make things matter to the audience. And to be fair,
this is still better than a lot of the filler that befell The Cat in the
Hat. But it's still nothing you really feel like you care about. And to
make things worse, the film starts off with a song about how great the
town is for being plastic and fake.
And honestly, that's kind of true. I mean, yeah, having no real nature
sucks, but weirdly Thneedville is a town with little to no crime, and
everyone is happy. The town seems to be doing great for itself, and you
could at least say that this does provide more jobs for people. So yeah,
hooray plastic land I guess.
We also get introduced to the villain of the movie by the name of
Aloysius O'Hare (because, you know The Once-Ler couldn't just be the
villain, since that was kind of the point of the book), who actually
managed to find a way to sell air to people. Which I do have to say does
make all that hooray stuff I was saying a bit dark. So, if you can't pay
your air bill, do you get cut off, and have no other option but to
suffocate and die? That's pretty dark when you think about it.
So after all that we're introduced to our protagonist Ted (voiced by Zac
Effron). Ted is the boy from the actual book, who I always envisioned
represented more the actual child reading the book than just being some
random character needing to learn a lesson. But no, he has to be a
character, who is in love with the girl next door, because that's what
the Lorax was lacking, a forced love story.
His neighbor Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift) is obsessed with the
stories of old about how the world used to have real trees. She even
graffito tags the back of her house with them. She wants to see a real
life tree. Ted, wanting nothing more than to finally gain the affection
of Audrey, tries to get that tree for her.
And of course this film needs stereotypical comic relief characters like
Ted's embarrassing mother who is a neat freak, as well as his wacky
extreme grandmother who is of course voiced by Betty White. Grammy (As
she's called) informs Ted of a man known as the Once-Ler, who knows
where to find trees. So ted sets off to find where he lives.
While this is going down O'Hare is in the middle of a meeting with a
pair of corporate stooges who try to convince him to make bottled air to
go, with the belief that since the factory will make the air worse, it
will mean more people will need air meaning more profits. This also
feels like how the Lorax movie was pitched. Take a classic book, add
CGI, trendy voices, and have the orange nugget endorse IHOP, and boom!
Instant box office bucks. Which, sadly, proved to be true.
O'Hare gets the news that Ted has left the town, which is taboo since he
doesn't want anyone to see that the world outside Thneedville is pretty
messed up. Dead trees, smog, polluted water. It's a big mess. Ted
continues his journey to find the Once-Ler, while dodging a bunch of
situations that probably looked better in 3D.
Ted does eventually find the home of the Once-Ler, who is none too
pleased that he's been found. However his mood changes when Ted mentions
So the Once-ler tells Ted the story about how he destroyed all the
trees. Now, I do like that the film has the Once-Ler in the shadows, and
that you barely see him other than his arms. You see, I interpret the
Once-ler to be a representation of mankind as a whole. It's why his face
is barely seen, and all you get are his arms all covered in green.
That way, you can feel that it represents how mankind squandered the
gifts mother nature have given us to mass produce stuff we don't
honestly need. And it works more powerfully because you don't see his
face. You don't give him a character, or even make him sympathetic. All
you need to realize is that he's the villain, and that he's only going
to see the error of his ways once he destroys everything. The Once-ler
needs no personality.
But we can't have that in our 3D film. Heavens no. We have to make him a
pretty boy with a guitar, a dream, and a donkey companion that is
thankfully not voiced by Eddie Murphy. And that therein is why I really
take an issue with this film. Giving the Once-ler his own character, and
giving him a face ruins what made the character interesting to begin
with. Making him likable despite the fact that he ends up ruining things
conflicts heavily with the message of the book. And of course he's the
only one of his family who believes in him, as they're all a bunch of
He eventually makes it to the trullula trees, which are what he needs to
make his thneed. After singing some more and making himself a general
nuisance to the animals, and he eventually wins them over with
marshmallows. He then cuts down one of the trees to supply his thneed
need, but in doing so he awakened the forest's guardian...
Well, close. It is indeed our titular orange potato man voiced by Danny
DeVito. After paying tribute to the fallen tree, the Lorax is none too
happy with the Once-ler's tree choppery. After some banter between the
two, the Lorax makes it quite clear that he wants the Once-ler to leave.
And how does he get the Once-ler to leave? To bad we have to sit through
more of the other story before we can get that answer.
The Once-ler tells Ted to come back the next day to hear more because
plot contrivance. After a few minutes of plot dragging, Ted tries to
head back the next day to see the Once-ler. However, he's caught by
O'Hare and his hired goons. O'Hare isn't too pleased with Ted's interest
in bringing trees back to Thneedville since it would screw over his air
business. And since he's the most powerful man in town, he has cameras
everywhere. Insert NSA joke here.
But despite O'Hare's warning, Ted manages to make it back to the
Once-ler to continue the story. After some unfunny dated pop culture
jokes, we finally get back to the actual story of the Lorax. So, as I
mentioned previously, since asking the Once-ler to leave didn't work,
the Lorax decides to try the only other logical move...
Send the sumbitch up the river! So, by the Lorax's law, cut a tree, and
we have no problem if your dumb ass drowns. But one of the Bar-ba-loots
(the bears, which I don't recall the movie even referring them as), ends
up stowing away on the bed of the Once-ler, screwing over the Lorax's
plan. So, the animals end up rescuing the Once-ler and the bar-ba-loot.
The Lorax tells the Once-ler again not to chop any more trees, and the
Once-ler gives a promise that will obviously be broken very shortly
After having his privacy invaded by a bunch of animals that tried to
drown him the previous night, the Once-ler shows the Lorax his creation
of the Thneed, a piece of fabric that has a million uses. He tries to
shill the product with a hip pop song, but it doesn't quite fly. He
tosses away the Thneed and tells the Lorax that he failed.
But of course it turns out that the Thneed is a hit with the people, as
they continue to sing the jingle of "Everybody needs a thneed". It's a
forgettable pop song, but I will admit at least that it does a good
enough job of selling the importance of the Thneed need. With success
looming, the Once-ler calls his family as it already seems that the
greed is getting to him.
Well, it's been a few minutes too many of the more interesting story, so
back to Thneedville we go with Ted. It appears the douchery of O'Hare is
becoming more apparent as he removes the art from Audrey's house, and
places added precautions to ensure that Ted doesn't leave town. If only
this wasn't just a large wall that could be jumped over if you were able
to get on some really tall buildings. And of course, that's how it
works. Honestly, this whole scene adds nothing to the story other than
what we already know. Ted has the hots for Audrey, and O'Hare doesn't
want Ted to find a way to get trees back.
Back to the other story, as the tranquil peace of the forest gets messed
up as the Once-ler's family arrives. And of course, they're barbaric
jackasses that were the motivating reason for the Once-ler to want to
prove himself better. With his success, they suddenly care enough to
want to help him in his thneed business. And with the success going to
the Once-ler's head, along with his family feigning love, he breaks the
promise to not harm another tree.
And with the evolution of the Once-ler's arrogance leads to the biggest
song of the movie as he sings about how bad he can be. And I gotta
admit, it's a pretty solid scene as we see just how bad he can be, as
the truffula forest becomes completely ravaged. The song is more your
mileage may vary, it's catchy in chorus, but its lyrics aren't all that
strong. And in the end, while it works in the way this movie wants it
to, I still prefer the speech in the original Lorax story, especially
how it was worded out in the original special. As we see the Once-ler
begin to see the errors of his ways, but with the more success there is,
the less he cares.
"Now, you listen to me, Pop, while I blow my top! Trees? Ha! You speak
for the trees? Well I speak for men, and human opportunities! For your
information, you Lorax, I'm figgering on biggering and biggering, and
biggering, and BIGGERING, turning MORE truffula trees into thneeds!
Which everyone, everyone, EVERYONE NEEDS!"
In fact the entire scene with the factory and the destruction the
Once-ler causes feels like it's built up better in the special. In the
movie, it feels like they rush the motivations of his greed and
evolution of his heel turn so fast that the destruction he causes
doesn't digest well enough. Though maybe that would be less of an issue
if the movie didn't feel it needed two storylines to fill in the 80
minutes. If the movie intended to turn the Once-ler from good to bad,
then building his greed and his success and then setting up the downfall
and destruction would have a bigger impact. But that's just how I look
And the downfall does indeed come as the final truffula tree gets
chopped down. The Thneeds become a thing of the past, as the air gets
worse, which leads to O'Hare's idea to sell air.
The animals leave to find a new home and the Lorax lifts his ass to the
heavens. The Once-ler's story is over, and he gives Ted the last
Truffula seed for him to plant into town. And again, I know I'm
complaining, but if it ended there, with that ambiguity, much like the
book itself, it would still be a fair ending. Leaving a shred of feeling
that Ted represents you the viewer and how it is up to you to make sure
the world remains a place of green.
Too bad we have to go back to the other story though.
So, Ted brings the seed back to town, but O'Hare knows that he brought
it back. So, it's up to Ted, his family, and Audrey to get the tree
planted in the middle of town, as we get a long, and kind of bland chase
scene that probably would have looked okay in 3D. They eventually make
it to the middle of town, as O'Hare convinces the town to destroy the
seed, since their living conditions could be jeopardized. But Ted breaks
the wall down to reveal just how shitty things have gotten, and they
change their minds.
And of course it's through another peppy pop song about how we have to
let it grow.
GROW, not go.
The tree is planted, Ted gets his kiss, and the Once-ler leaves his
house as the trees begin to grow once more. The Lorax comes back down
from the heavens and all seems well for a happy ending.
The Lorax is a mixed bag for me. This is definitely a better movie than
most I've reviewed, with great animation, solid voice work, and when it
wants to, it does try to be faithful while expanding enough of the
source material. I know I complain about the changes to the book, and I
do understand that movies based on book take massive liberties, and that
if this was to fly it needed to give the Once-ler a face. One that most
would want to see. And considering the fandom that he's gained since, I
definitely see that.
But the film just feels really hollow. We get way too much of the
forgettable plot involving Ted. Nothing from those scenes came off as
entertaining. Not the characters, not the story within, not the comedy,
or the action from the big chase scene by the end. It just feels forced
and tacked on because the writers couldn't work the Lorax story on its
own to an 80 minute film.
Which is a shame because despite being massively rushed, the Lorax parts
of the story are the best parts. It feels like an emptier representation
of the story, but for the most part it follows the book pretty well.
Despite maybe having the Once-ler's road to becoming this evil
narcissistic businessman feels extremely rushed. And yes, I can't get
past the fact that this film with a heavy focus on environmental
consciousness, has its mascot plastered on gas guzzling SUVs and other
polluting products. It gives the film a festering scent of hypocrisy.
And with that in mind, this film goes into Tooncrap. It's not the worst
film, hell, it's better than 90% of what I have inducted, but in the
end, it's just not that great.