Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax": A Decent Romp

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Produced by Chris Meledandri and Janet Healey
Distribution: Universal Pictures
Studio: Illumination Entertainment

I just got back from seeing Illumination Entertainment's Dr. Seuss' The Lorax and I will say, it was worth seeing. I do, however, think that it wasn't a great film by any means. For an animated family film, it was a bit derivative and certainly run of the mill. To me, it was basically Despicable Me in a Dr. Seuss setting, considering that the creators of this film made that 2010 romp. (Everyone knows that, though)

A couple things that were good: The characters were all very likable. While I wasn't too crazy about the fact that big names were providing the voices (Zac Efron, Taylor Swift), they actually did an okay job. Zac Efron provides the voice of the main protagonist, Ted, and he does an okay job at best. Still, his young adult voice sounds awkward coming from a 12-year-old character. Taylor Swift wasn't too bad as his love interest, Audrey. Surprisingly, she's barely in it. Danny DeVito did a good job as The Lorax. Betty White steals the show as Ted's rowdy grandmother. They also did a decent job at extending the story into a 95-minute running time. It was also a musical, which I did not expect. The musical numbers ranged from awkward to enjoyable. John Powell's score wasn't too bad, either. The message was also well handled, without being preachy or annoying. (Although Lou Dobbs would disagree!) It was also a decent satire of consumerism, as the city of "Thneed-Ville" has nothing but artificial products. (i.e., plastic trees that change to color to emulate the different seasons)

The animation is also one of the film's more positive elements. It's very colorful and pretty to look at. Dr. Seuss adaptations work better in the animated medium, because live action blunders like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat certainly prove that. The animation isn't dazzling or jaw-dropping, but it's very nice to look at and it complements the setting and story. In terms of the color scheme, the film looks like an explosion at a candy factory.

So, what didn't work? Well, the film's first half is rather jumpy. It takes some time for the film to take off, but once the Once-ler starts telling the story of The Lorax, it slowly gets better and better. The comedy works for the most part, but I'd say 30% of the jokes misfired. There were some cringe-worthy moments, particularly in the film's first act, that you'd see in family films that are a little more kid-friendly than usual. Also, the film was a little too candy-coated for my tastes. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind what is usually called "syrupy sweet" or saccharine, but this one was a bit too sugary. Thankfully, the second half sort of drowns that with some more somber moments.

That said, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax may be unspectacular, but it's an entertaining film. It's sometimes fun, funny, the story is decent and the characters are likable. The musical numbers are good for the most part, and the animation is nice to look at. While it isn't great, it's still an average romp that's a lot of fun. I would give it a slightly higher rating if it wasn't for the flimsiness of the film's first 30 minutes. Recommended. 

C-, but still enjoyable.

As a side note, the theater was PACKED. Also, I didn't see it in 3D, and I was probably better off. The audience loved it and laughed at most of the funny parts. (They clapped at the end) This film is going to be a huge hit with family audiences. It's definitely something kids will love, but it doesn't talk down the adults in the audience. It's a real crowd-pleaser, that's for sure. It took in an estimated $17 million yesterday, which is good. If it clears $50 million this weekend, that will make it the first non-Pixar film since Shrek Forever After in 2010 to cross $50 million on its opening weekend. Animation is back on track at the box office. 

Bonus - Trailer Recap 

Into the Arctic 3D - A 3D documentary about a polar bear and her two cubs navigating through the Arctic circle. Reminds me of Born to Be Wild, a documentary about orangutans and elephants released in 3D and IMAX 3D theaters last year. - Opens April 20th

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! - Yes, I know the U.S. title is Band of Misfits, but I prefer to refer to this film by the original title. Anyways, this is the same trailer that we've had for months. A new trailer would be nice, considering that the film comes out at the end of next month. - Opens April 27th

Frankenweenie - This looks really good. Tim Burton brilliance. I'm just curious to see how they'll stretch the story out into a roughly 90-minute film. Remember Shane Acker's 9? That was based on a short film, but the feature film adaptation was somewhat unspectacular. Hopefully Frankenweenie won't turn out like that, but the original short is much longer than 9 anyway. From what I saw, I was impressed. - Opens October 5th

ParaNorman - My friend jokingly said to me during the trailer, "I can just hear the parents saying 'My kid was afraid of this movie!' when it comes out." This looks impressive, being Laika's next animated film. (Their first was Henry Selick's brilliant Coraline) I liked the look of it. I will definitely check this out when it hits theaters in August. - Opens August 17th

Despicable Me 2 - This was just a teaser, and it was fun. The minions sing their version of "Barbara Ann". The audience burst into laughter in the final part of the teaser. Here's hoping this one lives up to the original, which I really enjoyed. - Opens July 3rd, 2013

Mirror Mirror - Tarsem Singh's Snow White film. To be honest, I think BOTH Snow White films (this and Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman) look terrible. This one looks like a bad spoof along the lines of Epic Movie, the other looks like your typical all-flash-and-no-substance mess. - Opens March 30th

1 comment:

  1. When all is said and done, The Lorax has plenty of ups and downs when it comes to added plot and characters, but it's still a nice family feature nonetheless. However, the right-wing message may start to get a little preachy at times. Good review. Give mine a look when you get the chance.