Monday, 5 March 2012

Review: The Lorax

The Lorax (2012)

I was not a fan of Dr Seuss's 1971 book The Lorax nor was I of the cartoon version produced for American television.  No, that's not quite true.  "Not a fan" is like saying that I'm not a fan of the Blitz or liver flukes.  I thought that the story was the weakest that Seuss every drew and the cartoon was such heavy-handed "green" propaganda that it's a wonder that it didn't end by condemning fire and the wheel.  Compared to the 2012 feature version, however, both were finely nuanced and light-hearted parables of conservation.  The Tone of the original cartoon was, for all its brow beating,  fast-paced, but simple and ended on a suitably added dollop of hope and pathos at the end.  The big screen remake is more like a gong being rung next to one's ear for every frame of this over-extended pile of dreck.

The story of the Once-ler coming across a forest of trffula trees and clear cutting them in order to make a type of clothing called thneeds only to be told to lay off by a magical creature called the Lorax, who "speaks for the trees" remains, but it's, expanded, amped up and relegated to a flashback sequence as part of a pointless, larger story about a smart-mouthed brat who lives in a plastic city who is looking for a real tree to give to a local girl because, to put it frankly, he wants to get laid.

That may seem like a harsh way to say something about a character in a children's film, but that is what this story is; a cynical, preachy piece of plastic laid at the feet of the Earth First crowd and at it's heart, it is nasty.  Mind you, this laying is being done by a major studio who did the film in 3D to squeeze the last buck out of the audience's pocket in order to condemn Capitalism.  The characters are all obnoxious, the villains are caricatures of the lowest form outside of mimeographed Marxist leaflets (one song is "How Bad Can I Be?"), the musical numbers are overdone, overloud and not over soon enough.

This a film that treats the felling of one tree as a literal tragedy of sickening proportions.  For the love of heaven, my house is heated by wood!  The message is that the human race is a disease and that the free market an abomination.  However, like the previous incarnations, there is no logic at all to their case.  The Once-ler and the bottled air merchant O'Hare rule their worlds as dictators without any competition, no government to answer to and no concept of their own self interests.  Why does the Once-ler chop down the truffula trees?  Why not harvest them?  We're told in passing that this is "too slow", but so is cutting down the trees by hand.  This in the film is mechanised, why not harvesting?  This is as idiotic as chopping down an apple orchard to get at the fruit.  And speaking of fruit, the trees are depicted as bearing delicious apple-like things.  Why aren't these marketed?  Wouldn't that be an inducement not to chop down the trees?  More to the point, why aren't the trees replanted?

If anything this is not a case for not cutting down trees, but for proper forestry and the danger of resources being owned in common rather than by the harvester.  They don't call it the Tragedy of the Commons for nothing.

Then there is the character of O'Hare, who is a con man who wants everyone to live in a city they can never leave while they buy bottles that contain nothing.  It's ironic that the filmmakers don't notice that this is a perfect description of Al Gore.  Of course, we can't expect Hollywood to do a film about, for example, a fanatical "green" government that turns a green and fertile valley into a dust bowl to favour an insignificant fish  or a Socialist regime where protecting the environment is of no importance compared to carrying out Party directives no matter how insane.

Beyond that, in this plastic city where we keep being told everything is horrible, there's no sign of anything being actually wrong and everyone appears genuinely happy–even the tree-yearning Audrey.  At least in the cartoon there were scenes of polluted skies and rivers.  Here, the filmmkaers want a story of eco-catastrophe where everything stays bright and cheerful for the kiddies.

Now that I think of it, I'm being too hard here.  In fact, The Lorax is a parable about nuclear energy where the Once-ler is, in fact, a rabid environmentalist who is shutting down nuclear plants right and left while the Lorax is an advocate of a sane policy to build more plants to provide cheap, clean energy and free the imprisoned people with motor cars so they can escape their urban prison.

Now that's a screenplay I can get behind.

A plea for forest management policies

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