THE LORAX – Dr. Suess’ children’s books haven’t had a very good track record translating to the big screen. THE GRINCH was a giant turd that captured none of Suess’ wit and spirit, full of inappropriate pop culture references and an awful off-the-cuff performance by Jim Carrey. HORTON HEARS A WHO, though a vast improvement, still suffered from modern storytelling cliches. Also, it felt like there was a lot of unneeded material added to expand the short story into a feature. Since this latest one was from the makers of the criminally overrated kids movie, DESPICABLE ME, I had very little hope for this one.
I don’t remember too much of this book, but I think I liked it. I generally love Dr. Suess. In this adaptation, the story takes place in a town that is 100% artificial. All of the trees and grass are made of plastic. A pre-teen named Ted has a crush on his neighbor Audrey, who fantasizes about a world where real trees exist. She convinces Ted that trees did in fact exist, but it’s a complete mystery as to what happened to them. Determined to discover the truth, Ted journeys to the outer portions of the city where a creature called the Once-ler lives. This mysterious being tells Ted the story about The Lorax, a creature who is the guardian of mother earth. Ted learns how the Once-ler unwittingly destroyed nature, but is there a way to restore it? Oh yeah, there is also a villain who runs the town that doesn’t want anything to do with real trees, since it would ruin his scheme of profiting from canned air, which he sells.
From watching the trailers, I was prepared for a loud and obnoxious time as the Danny DeVito voiced Lorax made smart-ass comments and improvised his way through this supposed kids movie. Thankfully, the movie is nothing like the trailers. Imagine my surprise within the first 2 minutes, there was an all out huge musical number that introduces the town. It was lively energetic, full of color and witty humor, much like most of the film.
Voiced by Zac Efron, Ted is a likable enough character to bring you into the story. But most of the film is told in flashback when the Once-ler was younger and meets The Lorax (who surprisingly isn’t in the movie all too much). He makes friends with animals as he follows his dream to make hats out of trees. This portion was cute as most of the animals are absolutely adorable. I loved the teddy bears and the singing fish (who have the perfect Suess look). There’s lots of precious moments of cuteness provided by the animals. The design of the city is also quite imaginative, as it should be considering the source.
But, just like the book, it has a nice moral message about preserving the environment. DeVito keeps it pretty subtle as The Lorax. I kept waiting for his character to become pretty goofy because of the advertisements, but the extent of his silliness ends with the trailers. He’s actually quite serious. The ending is satisfying enough and actually made me shed a tear. However, don’t think it’s super preachy. It’s not. My only real complaint about the movie is the villain. He’s not really funny (and the character attempts to be) and I found him unnecessary. However, it’s not that awful of a character that he ruins the whole movie.
This is a nice, sweet, slightly whimsical, and short (86 minutes) family film that will entertain the youngsters and their parents alike. Finally, a Dr. Suess adaptation that didn’t embarrass itself. Wide release Rating:
Also opening this weekend:
W.E. – Well, Madonna’s second film as a director is light years better than her debut (FILTH & WISDOM). It focuses on two romances: The affair between King Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson, and it parallels with a romance between a married woman (named after Wallis) and a Russian security guard. The performances are quite good (especially Andrea Riseborough as Wallis) and Madonna is showing promise as a visual storyteller. Unfortunately, there are some pacing issues toward the end, and a lackluster coda that kept me from fully recommending it. Now playing at The Edina. Rating:
CORIOLANUS – Ralph Fiennes stars and directs this modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s play of the same name. It’s definitely ambitious to take the play’s original settings and replace them with the backdrop of the current middle eastern conflict. There are some good performances (especially from Vanessa Redgrave), but Gerard Butler is completely clueless as Fiennes enemy. The direction gets sloppy many times (too much shaky cam and choppy editing). But the main problem is that this unique approach doesn’t suit the material (which isn’t Shakespeare’s best by any means), and doesn’t translate well to the screen at all. Opens at The Lagoon. Rating:
PROJECT X – A found footage movie. This time it’s not a horror film or a super hero movie, but a raunchy teen comedy. Kids throw a giant party and try to get laid. That’s it! The lead characters are incredibly unlikable, the found footage gimmick doesn’t make any sense and fails on every level. Besides 2 or 3 awkward chuckles, every joke in this dismal comedy falls flat on it’s face. This was not a fun movie to sit though. One of the worst of the year. It also has the worst moral ever: “It doesn’t matter if you destroy the entire neighborhood while throwing an irresponsibly huge party, just as long as it makes you popular”. I might let that moral slide if the film were actually funny. It’s not. Wide release. Rating:
CRAZY HORSE – Was not screened for me. At The Lagoon.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA – Was not screened for me. At St. Anthony.Friday, March 2nd, 2012 at 5:30 pm