If, like me, you grew up with the classic story about truffula trees that look like cotton candy hair, the Swomee Swans with their bright yellow plumage, and the Humming Fish that sing in chimey little voices, then you have eagerly been awaiting The Lorax.
This movie depicts the events that unfold in the memorable children’s story, but it also adds in another story line that shows you what happened to that boy who was given the last truffula seed. Why did he go see the Once-ler? Did he ever follow through and plant the last seed? What was life like without truffula trees? How did they breathe the smoggedy air? These are the questions this movie answers.
Right off the bat we are introduced to the city of Thneedville, home of Ted.
Here the trees are all plastic and light up at night,
the air is all smoggy, the water a fright.
The ground is all hard and plasticy-like,
and children ride round on motorbikes.
The villain is one who does not really care,
of the people, or animals, or even the air.
Yes this is the town for which truffulas fell,
how long people tolerate this, no one can tell.
Breath of Fresh Air
I have already read the controversies over people’s expectation of a tree hugging agenda where this film is concerned. I must confess, I had my suspicions as well. The Lorax provides the perfect opportunity for a biased view on this subject. However, I am very happy to report that I was impressed with how the film chose to handle this subject.
A world without trees would be a terrible thing, we all can admit that, and that is what this movie focuses on. When the Once-ler cuts down his first tree, the Lorax and all the animals are appalled, but instead of shunning him, they work to show him the error of his ways. The Lorax tries to take the young Once-ler under his wing, so to speak. In a short time the Once-ler, animals, and Lorax are good friends, and the Once-ler promises never to cut down another tree.
So how does he plan on going about making his Thneeds, you might ask? He harvests tufts from the truffula trees! Taking bits and pieces from the different trees allows the Once-ler to make his Thneeds without chopping down the truffula. Not only does this plan work, but the Lorax is quite happy with it. He wants to see Once-ler succeed and finds this to be a responsible way for him to do so. It’s not till later that things plummet downhill (more on this later), and the Lorax must give his final words of advice: “What way does a tree fall? The way a tree leans is the way it will fall.”
The movie tells kids, in Seussian style, that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” It’s a good message, and I was very happy this film showed the trees were not more important than the people, but that the trees needed to be cared for. To me this is not so much an agenda as it is wise council for a world who is often poor stewards of the incredible gifts God has given it.
Another positive theme in this movie is that “It’s not what it is. It’s about what it can become.” This is said to Ted as the Once-ler drops the last truffula seed into Ted’s waiting hands. While he is obviously talking about the truffula seed becoming a tree, the line is very metaphoric as well. We understand that the Once-ler is talking not only about the seed, but also the shift in mindset that that one seed can create.
In the end of the film we see the Lorax return to see a very old Once-ler. The two friends embrace and the Lorax tells Once-ler that he is proud of him. It’s a beautiful scene. We see the baby truffulas that the Once-ler is tending all around, the Unless stone is at their feet, and the blue skies are returning. It is a reminder that no matter what we have done, we can still make it right. We can still make a difference. In some ways, the scene reminded me of a repentant sinner.
Honestly, the worst part about this movie was the commercials that came before it in the theater. Two of the commercials featured were Tim Burton pieces. While the man may be considered a genius by many, his new attempts at children’s movies made me cringe and want to cover my eyes. This is what kid’s movies are coming to? Zombie flicks that are spinoffs of the popular horror movies called Paranormal? While the previews have nothing to do with the movie, I felt I needed to bring them up for any of you thinking of viewing this in the theater. If you have young children who will be viewing it, you may want to come in late or just wait for it to hit DVD.
Obviously the Once-ler’s spiral out of control is a negative element to the movie. However, while we do see the Once-ler break his promises, turn into a money-grubbing fiend, and see him say hurtful things to his friend the Lorax, we also see his repentant heart. When all is said and done, Once-ler realizes the terrible things he has done. So, what does he do? Roll around in the wealth he has acquired? Nope. He holes himself up in a rinky-dink shack and waits. He waits for someone who can help him undo the wrong he has committed.
Sexual content is basically nonexistent. The movie opens up with several bikini clad characters who are singing with the rest of the town. We see them briefly at different points in the movie. Ted has a crush on Audrey, an older high school girl he dreams about kissing (in the end she gives him a peck on the cheek). The movie actually hinges on the fact that Audrey wants a real tree and would “marry the guy who brought her one on the spot!”. Ted intends to be that guy.
Ted does end up in a bathroom scene, disturbing someone’s shower. The man’s head is seen and his yelp is heard, but nothing more is shown. We also see Once-ler drop his pajamas on the floor, but when the camera pans to him, he is fully dressed. There are also references made by the Lorax about Once-ler’s Aunt looking like a man.
Violence comes predominantly in the form of environmental decimation. We see the tress hacked down innocently at first, but as the Once-ler continues down his spiral of greed, the six-axed tree chopper is invented and the trees are felled row after row, eventually leaving a smog filled, stump leveled countryside. There are several slapstick moments where people run into trees or are kicked with mechanical boots, but nothing alarming.
Mr. O’Hare presents a more threatening demeanor in the film than the green-eyed version of the Once-ler. He stalks Ted, tries to have his thugs rough the boy up (nothing ever comes of it, so there isn’t really any violence), and is a Tycoon who care only about his pocketbook and power. While he never does anything other than chase Ted, he’s certainly portrayed more as a villain, whereas the Once-ler is perceived as a man who lost his way.
A prank is played on the Once-ler by the Lorax and woodland animals. They place his bed in the water and have him float downriver. This goes downhill— and down rapids— pretty quickly. The Lorax manages to save Once-ler though, before he plummets to a watery death.
Perhaps the most negative feature in this movie is the Once-ler’s family. His parents believe he will never amount to anything and happily send him far away from their lives. Once he becomes a success, however, they come running, wanting a share in the spoils. In fact, it is the desire to please his mother that, in the end, causes Once-ler to break his promise to the Lorax. Families are a powerful thing. They can do great good or great evil. In fact, the last thing Once-ler’s mother says to him, as she moves on to greener pastures, is “I am very disappointed in you, Oncie.” She then turns to one of his brothers beside her and informs him he is now the new favorite child.
Surprisingly there was no language in this film. Even kids movies nowadays seem to be lightly sprinkled with something. The Lorax has some name calling (idiot, dirt-bag, furry meatloaf), a gosh and a darn, but no language.
There is no alcohol or drugs depicted in this film either; however, the O’Hare Air commercial for bottled air heavily mimics typical beer commercials. We see them pulling out their canned air, suddenly making them cooler as they are swarmed by girls. They then proceed to pop open their cans, spraying air into their mouths and faces.
The End of the Lifted Lorax
The Lorax book was my all-time favorite Seuss (followed closely by Fox in Socks). It is an engaging story with magical pictures in it. However, it is hard to make a 94 minute movie out of that little Seuss book. I loved the depictions of the Once-ler, the Lorax, and all the woodland creatures, but everyone else lacked motivation and characterization. The added storyline didn’t add much and was not particularly brilliant, though not terrible.
There were some funny moments in this movie, and I would argue there was a good, balanced message. All in all it is one of those films that won’t hurt you to see, but wouldn’t kill you not to see. Although, if you are as nostalgic as I am, you may want to go see it just because it is The Lorax.