The Lorax: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Last night we went to see The Lorax. Unfortunately it was the only animated film at the cinema and all I can say is that I really did have to sleep on it before writing this post.

Let’s start with the good. We all know it’s based on the book by Dr. Seuss, and that’s grand. Having never read the book, I went into the film with a bit of naivety but an open mind as to how it would pan out.

The set designs and backgrounds are the best aspect of the film. Yes, they’re unremarkable in the grand scheme of things, but they do at least lend a cartoony feel to everything; much the same as that other Dr. Seuss film, Horton Hears a Who. The colours may be a bit saccharine for some (we certainly weren’t prepared for it), but they fit in well with the environment, and the team did a fine job of contrasting the different scenes and eras.

The other standout thing for me was the score. Not the soundtrack (we’ll get to that below), but the score by John Powell, which leads a kind of joviality to the whole thing. Again, it’s nothing remarkable, but it fits the mood well.

I suppose the other good thing was that the kids seemed to like it, especially the one girl behind us who made everyone else laugh with her giggles.

Onto the bad. All I can say is throughout the entirety of the film, I couldn’t help but feel that bits and pieces were missing. By the end, I reckoned there was 20 minutes that were somehow missing and had either hit cutting room floor or were never written to being with.

The entire film seemed like it was going around in a tumble dryer with jumps here and there, back and forth and characters starting in one place and instantly ending in another. In other words, the film didn’t so much run as it was playing hopscotch.

Besides the jumbly story, there were gags to be had in every, single, shot. Now a comedy should have a joke in most scenes, with a sprinkling of gags to sweeten things up. The Lorax on the other hand, didn’t seem to think that was enough and proceeded to have a gag in, quite literally, every single shot. Be it something happening offhand to a character or a spoken blooper, the result was the same. It was OK for the first couple of minutes, but after an hour and a half, things were wearing a bit thin.

Lastly, the ugly.

Hmmm, where to start, how about with the voice talent. The big names like Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift certainly promised a lot (if you believe the marketing department at Universal) but oh boy did they fail to deliver. They didn’t stumble over themselves and roll off a cliff, no, they weren’t that bad. But if you like wooden voice-acting from people who aren’t famous for their [speaking] voices, well, The Lorax is right up your street.

Taylor Swift, as good great* a singer as she is, just can’t deliver a good vocal performance. It was flat, it was unmemorable, it was a waste of a role! The rest of the cast is similar. Danny DeVito is at least seasoned enough and with a distinct voice that enabled him to carry the role, but only barely.

As for the characters they were voicing, well, they were all terribly boring. Comparing Ted and another young protagonist, Hiccup, there is no comparison. Hiccup at least has depth, he actually has some motivation to do the right thing, for the dragons’ sake. Ted just want to impress Taylor Swift, and the best he can muster is to find a tree, and even then that’s practically done for him!

We learn nothing about him. He’s an axiom of a character, in other words, he is what he is. As is everyone else. Character development is minimal, even for the Once-ler, who has apparently learned his lesson but is for some reason dependent on Ted to fix everything.

The supporting cast are pretty much your usual, American pseudo-stereotypes:

  • Mum who’s the boss – check
  • Granny whose surprisingly active but uses a cane and is voiced by Betty White – check
  • Greedy businessman who’ll stop at nothing to keep his empire – check
  • Cute girl next door who main character has a crush on – check
  • Creepy, disgruntled old-timer who’s going to have a change of heart by the film’s end – check
  • Southern yokels in a Winnebago – check

Let’s not forget the myriad of supporting characters who imbue all the usual quirky traits that are by now seemingly mandatory for any CGI film. From singing abilities to one-trick ponies, they’re all there.

As mentioned earlier, the score is decent, but the songs were even more saccharine than the sets. Lavishly animated, they were over the top to say the least. Coming at supposedly appropriate points in the film, they were nonetheless distractions that didn’t really add much. The film could have been non-musical and it would have been the same.

Lastly, the particulars of the story itself is where the film really fell down. Besides jumping all over the place in the pacing, the story itself made maddingly little sense. The Lorax himself plays a relatively minor character; being missing for almost half the film only to show up again at the very end. The Once-ler servers as the protagonist for half the film before focus shifts back to Ted. Taylor Swift’s character says all of three paragraphs and appears in just about as many scenes and O’Hare is a villain who, quite frankly, does nothing of consequence.

In the end, we go back and forth from past to present before jumping around all over Thneedsville to plant a tree before the whole town turns against the bad guy, Ted gets his kiss and The Lorax shows up to give the Once-ler a hug.

Honestly, by the end, it’s hard to figure out quite what the hell I was watching for the past hour and a half.

Illumination Goes After The Cat in the Hat

So it comes as no surprise whatsoever to learn that Illumination Entertainment is working on a CGI version of the Cat in the Hat. They’ve done quite well with The Lorax, and Illumination’s Chris Melendandri also oversaw Horton Hears A Who while previously at FOX.

This is good news and bad news all rolled into one. Yes, Illumination has done a great job on its recent films, but is really necessary to have another go at The Cat in the Hat?

OK, in fairness, there was that terrible effort with Mike Myers from a few years ago that you knew was doomed to fail the second you saw how all the vehicles were thinly disguised Fords. If such blatant paid product placement isn’t a dead ringer for a wonky movie, I don’t know what is.

Back to the point, yes, Dr. Seuss’ films make great animated films, but are they just getting rehashed at this point? Illumination have proven themselves with not one but two really good original films that they’ve been able to crank out for much less than Pixar or even DreamWorks could ever hope to.

So is it simply a case of certainty? Of going with what you know? Or is it that they really want to make a good Cat in the Hat move.

I’m going to go with the former. If the Deadline Hollywood is anything to go by (and to be honest, I take it with a pinch of salt myself), we’ll see Dr. Seuss films from now until the end of time. I just wish more emphasis was placed on original ideas. I mean, if you’re risking $70 million on a film you might as well go original. It’s not like you’re dumping $250 million and the kid’s college fund on an unknown entity. If you can find a great idea and a good team with a great track record, you should have no problems with an original idea.

Keep Dr. Seuss alive, but don’t turn him into a horse to flog for the sake of flogging.

Points for Effort: The Lorax Goes Green for Publicity

Via: ScreenCrave

Illumination/Universal are getting ready to release their latest film The Lorax. the two unusual things about this film are:

  1. My finacee wants to see it
  2. The merchandising/tie-ins are “green”

Normally film studios will give lip service to the idea of the green agenda. Case in point is Captain Planet, which had some decidedly un-environmentally friendly toys.

This time around though, it seems like a genuine effort is being made. From the AP:

The EPA, for instance, is using the Lorax character to help promote low-power appliances that carry the Energy Star label. Hilton’s DoubleTree hotel chain is sponsoring a trip for four to eco-tourism mecca Costa Rica. The Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam is creating a Lorax-inspired route through its garden, which is home to a number of endangered trees.

Such tie-ins will probably do a good job of raising awareness amongst the public about environmental needs, but will they lead to lasting change? I doubt it. I mean, since when has film merchandise made a significant impact on consumer behaviour?

Normally things go great when the products are on the shelves, but like all tie-ins, their lifespan is limited, and we’ve all seen the products in the bargain bin featuring the film from 6 months ago that now look lost and forlorn. On top of that, we, as humans, are notoriously regimented in our ways. After a few months, most consumers who went green for the Lorax will be right back to their old way of doing things.

I can’t help but feel that stunts like this are more about the positive publicity than making real changes. What do you think? Is this green promotional campaign a gimmick or do you think it’ll stick with consumers?

The Four Animated Movies of 2012 That I Can’t Wait To See

I’ve used Cartoon Brew’s list as a guide for this:

  1. The Secret World of Arriety – The latest offering from Studio Ghibli; goes without saying
  2. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – The future missus wants to see this because Taylor Swift is in it. I’m not going to object.
  3. Brave – Pixar’s latest, how will it’s Scottishness hold up nest to HTTYD
  4. Hotel Transylvania – The concept art is awesome and Genndy Tartakovsky is behind it. This should be good