Dr. Seuss' cautionary environmental tale heads to the big screen — spurring plenty of debate about the faithfulness of the adaptation
Ed Helms lends his voice to the tree-chopping Once-ler, an unseen character in the book, for the upcoming film version of Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax." Photo: YouTube
Best Opinion: Wall Street Journal, io9, Collider...
Another of Dr. Seuss' whimsical children's books is getting the big screen treatment, but this time, it's one of his most didactic and controversial works. The first full trailer for The Lorax, an adaptation of Seuss' 1971 environmental fable about the dangers that industrialization poses to nature, was released Thursday. (Watch it below.) The title character, a mustachioed furry creature, speaks on behalf of the trees against the greedy Once-ler who is chopping them down to profit his business. Here are seven things that nostalgic commentators are buzzing about now that they've had their first look at the film, which is due out March, 2012:
The short trailer hints at characters, dialogue, and plot points that were not in the book, says The Wall Street Journal. For parents, kids, and "moviegoers with nostalgic memories of Swomee-Swans, Humming-Fish, and Brown Bar-ba-loots," that may be hard to swallow. The love story teased in the trailer may mess with the sacred text, says Meredith Woerner at io9, but the filmmakers had to do something "to flesh out the story past 20 minutes." The effect of the additions is confusing, says Emily Cheever at Ology. "I don't really remember a scene where adorable monsters bounce around in marshmallows."
The trailer reveals an "unmistakable Seussian architecture," says Matt Goldberg at Collider. Certainly, the "bright and bubbly" trailer echoes the spirit of whimsy that permeates Seuss' books, says Sandy Schaefer at Screen Rant.
The tree-chopping Once-ler is never fully seen in Seuss' book, says David Wharton at Cinema Blend, making him the "faceless personification of greed." The film's producer says they chose to make the Once-ler a relatable villain (voiced by The Hangover star Ed Helms) instead not a Seuss-like monster to reinforce the point that environmental damage is a human, not mythical problem.
It's understandable that the studio, which is selling The Lorax as a family film, wants to play up the comedy in the trailer, says Goldberg, but "I hope the Lorax's message won't be diminished by making him a creature of fun rather than a bearer of grave warnings." Indeed, says Matt Patches at Hollywood: The Lorax's "terrifying and bleak" warning about the perils of deforestation had me "scared out of my mind" as a kid. The trailer raises doubts that the film can "deliver the message that made the original book a classic."
Danny DeVito's casting as the diminutive but impressive Lorax is nearly perfect, says Schaefer. Still, it will be a challenge for audiences to lose themselves in the character; his signature raspy bark makes it "difficult to envision anyone but DeVito." That said, he's joined by Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, and Betty White, says Jean Bentley at Zap2it, which may be the most random, yet "best voice cast of all time."
"Dr. Seuss adaptations have been hit or miss on the big screen," says Will LeBlanc at Cinema Blend. 2000's How the Grinch Stole Christmas and 2003's The Cat in the Hat were major disappointments. Horton Hears a Who, however, "ditched the bad body suits" and went the more Seussian animated route — leading to a "hilarious and lovable" film. Thankfully, The Lorax appears to stay that brightly animated course, and appears to be both "charming and funny."
The use of the spritely Polyphonic Spree song "Light and Day" left me "with a warm, fuzzy feeling," says Sarah Anne Hughes at The Washington Post. That will probably anger fans of book's "dark tone." I personally support the choice, says Sandra Gonzalez at Entertainment Weekly. The song "perfectly captures the imagination-bending tone of the Seuss classic."