Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is one of our family’s favorite books.We own it, read it regularly, and our sons can recite sections of the book. Winston’s favorite line: “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the tress have no tongues.” Yesterday, we took our family to see the Lorax movie. While we were admittedly wary of what the movie would be like, we were also hopeful and pleasantly surprised. However, after seeing other reviews suggesting to skip seeing the Lorax, Brad and I decided to post a review/critique of a review on my blog. This is also our first joint post.
The review that prompted this response was by Sunita Pillay, a freelance writer for Elephant Journal. Here is the link to her review that ultimately says to pass up seeing the movie: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/03/movie-review-take-a-pass-on-the-lorax/
Let me say a few words about my husband. Brad Charles Melzer is a Professor of Sustainability at Baldwin-Wallace College. He is an ecologist and a permaculturalist. He is a board member for Green Triangle, a non-profit permaculture organization based in Cleveland, Ohio. He has been working for environmental awareness for 15 years. He is also a wonder father and husband who partners with me to teach our children our values. Without further ado, here is Brad’s take on the Lorax movie.
I disagree with this writer. It seems to me that she doesn’t remember being a child and her observations are off the mark. I saw the film yesterday and I was hopeful, but very wary. I thought for sure they would screw it up. To my pleasant surprise they didn’t. I’ll explain why, but first, let me critique this author’s observations. (1) She claims that the new villain, O’Hare, is Asian. Neither myself nor my wife thought that, just that he was short with a weird black haircut. (2) Her “major facepalm moment”, of which I surprisingly had none, was “Ted has to dodge mechanical swishing axes strategically placed on the side of the road, to escape from, um, being decapitated.” Apparently she didn’t realize that these were decrepit Super Axe Hackers strewn about in disuse. (3) She complains that there is a happy ending. In the process of expanding the story, the Once-ler character gets expanded and in the end finds a sort of redemption, which I thought, was handled very respectfully and well. (4) She claims that the Lorax comes off as a “bumbling buffoon” rather than a wisdom teacher/guru. However, to me the film portrays him as nothing less than holy. He flies into and out of “the light” in different scenes; very beautifully portrayed. (5) So. Another of the author’s criticisms was that the film was “an adrenaline-fueled extravaganza”. While it did have some action sequences (it is a 3-D film for children), it was hardly “adrenaline-fueled”. As an adult, I could’ve done without those, but the kids did seem to enjoy those parts of the film. (6) She’s “not even sure what the message is”, but to me they maintained the spirit of the book.
I will concede that the marketing for the film is sketchy at best, but was EXTRAORDINARILY relieved that there was no product placement in the film, and that the film-makers addressed the woes of consumerism (exemplified in the bottled air commercial pitch). Also, some of the marketing (of which I am very critical of) is not the worst I have seen. For example, IHOP is trying to plant 3 million trees. And the disposable diapers that the author mentions are from 7th Generation. My wife and I used cloth diapers on both our children, but used 7th Generation disposables as a backup. Although, they aren’t perfect in terms of sustainability (they use petroleum products, the fibers are wood and not recycled) the company as a whole is one of the leaders in sustainable practices. But they did fail, ultimately. From Mother Jones: “They had an opportunity to partner with brands that could have wowed us with what they were doing in the world,” Bittel told Mother Jones. “Instead they found a brand that sort of worked. In the end, it’s still a combustion engine, and it’s still a movie about overusing resources, and that just doesn’t match up.” He likened it, colorfully, to the film Finding Nemo partnering with a company that makes fish sticks. http://motherjones.com/environment/2012/03/lorax-film-greenwashing-Mazda
The film is one of Dr. Suess’ most beloved and was released on his birthday. Plus I’m sure that the film’s makers were well aware that they would receive some froth-at-the-mouth criticism regardless of what they did. To me though, once the marketing frenzy passes, the film will stand up as solid piece of art on its own. Not as potent as the book of course, but solid. As I mentioned previously, the film-makers stayed true to the the spirit of the book. The cartoon from the 70’s is a more faithful adaptation, but this is a major motion picture-length work and they were going to have to make some creative decisions. In the end, both my wife and I were relieved and our boys enjoyed it thoroughly. Winston (5) said: “It had so many adventures that Teddy had and he was brave enough to meet the Once-ler and the Lorax was brave enough to save his great Bar-ba-loots frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits, and his precious animals. And we get new trees by planting them, of course”. Miles (3) said: “because the Once-ler became good and helped the Lorax and the Lorax said ‘nice mustache'”.
Clearly, the movie isn’t the same as our beloved book, but we believe that it has value nonetheless. On a personal note, I wonder if some members of the green movement are so caught up in wanting ‘eco-perfection’ that they cannot see when progress is and has been made. Are we capable of being reasonable and embracing the good while striving for better? I hope so.