Deep in the Grickle-grass

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

WAY BACK in early spring, when this tol­er­a­ble fam­ily an­i­ma­tion was re­leased in the US, cer­tain rightwing lu­natics com­plained that it was push­ing left-wing green pro­pa­ganda at blame­less kid­dies. The adaptation of a Dr Seuss clas­sic is, you see, con­cerned with a town where all the trees have been re­placed by ma­chines. A young fel­low jour­neys from the un­happy place to hear how com­merce stripped the area of its nat­u­ral beauty. That’s right. Car­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment now makes you a com­mu­nist.

Any­way, there are good rea­sons to be sus­pi­cious of The Lo­rax, but none of them have to do with its pol­i­tics. The film-mak­ers have gut­ted the project of al­most all the an­ar­chic odd­ness that makes Dr Seuss’s work so en­dur­ingly de­light­ful. Most of the verse is gone. The char­ac­ters have had all their knob­bly bits re­moved. The build­ings, no longer lodg­ings on a weird planet, have taken on the qual­ity of subur­ban dwellings in outer Phoenix. One doesn’t want to get too hoity-toity, but its al­most as if the stu­dio is on the side of the con­form­ist tree an­ni­hi­la­tors.

Let us, how­ever, at­tempt to treat the thing fairly. As main­stream, com­puter-gen­er­ated fam­ily films go, The Lo­rax is by no means a dis­grace.

Chris Re­naud and Kyle Balda, di­rec­tors of the prop­erly hi­lar­i­ous De­spi­ca­ble Me, know about comic tim­ing and draw some very de­cent voice­work from Danny DeVito as the ec­cen­tric Lo­rax. The songs are just about catchy enough to jus­tify their pres­ence, and the mes­sage of the film – for us Marx­ists, any­way – can’t be faulted.

Still, this com­bi­na­tion of tal­ents seemed to prom­ise some­thing much more di­vert­ing. It’s a mys­tery. Over the last decade, film-mak­ers have con­sis­tently made a mess of Dr Seuss. Af­ter the de­ba­cles that were The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch, we should be grate­ful that The Lo­rax doesn’t ac­tu­ally cause ex­treme nausea. That’s not re­ally enough, though.

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