Dr. Suess's widely beloved, atypically elegiac book 'the Lorax' is getting primed for the big screen, and some fans are pissed. Rightly so, I'd say. Watch the trailer:
Here's Grist's Dave Roberts launching as harsh a polemic at a 2-minute movie trailer as you're likely ever to read:
This, I submit to you, is an insult to all that is good and holy.And yes, it goes on, so read the whole thing.
First off, Danny f'ing Devito?! No, no, no. The Lorax does not wisecrack. He does not pratfall. He does not delight the audience with shenanigans. He doesn't intervene in the action at all. What he does is observe ... He's a tragic figure ... Second, nothing grows where the Once-ler lives except Grickle-grass. The air smells "slow-and-sour." Why? Because there are no Truffula trees. They were the anchor species of the ecosystem, upon which the other species depended. That's the whole point. In this unholy movie, the kid lives in a candy-colored suburb with bright blue skies and well-fed white families everywhere. There are no trees, but the lack of trees is a curiosity, a matter for the idle dreams of suburban girls and their googly-eyed suitors. Apparently they were only there for aesthetics! Certainly no one seems worse off for their absence. Kind of misses the gist, no?
The complaints registered here really aren't so different from any other instance of Hollywood taking a sacred cultural text and supremely neutering its content. And I agree with Roberts: this film vehicle appears to take all that is stirring about the book and whittle it down into an obnoxious, impotent set piece. The studio seems only interested in capitalizing on the persistant ubiquity of the Lorax character and the familiar moving parts (hello, pinwheel-like Truffula trees).
That sucks. Because texts like the Lorax do have the power to rouse compassion and stir awareness in young folks. It's unlikely that this incarnation of the Lorax will inspire anyone to do anything but plow trough of junk food. But I wouldn't despair, because where some beloved mythologies fall, others rise up. Take Avatar, for instance -- that film created a brand new mythology based on environmental principles for the youth of the world to revel in. The themes may not ring as bleakly true as the original 'Lorax's', but still, the film's conservationist, anti-industrialist message is fired loud and clear.
We can seek further consolation in the fact that the book itself is still just as relevant and powerfully resonant now as it was when it was first published -- it'll take more than a Hollywood hack job remake to diminish the book's remarkable staying power.