The family went to see the Lorax today, and I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. Since it’s an adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss story, I was expecting the writers to have to expand the story since it’s a short work not easily lending itself to becoming a feature length film, but I wasn’t sure where they were going to stretch the story. Basically, as with any adaptation, I went in with low expectations. Most adaptations can clear the bar when I set it low enough, some don’t get off the ground. I think the Lorax did it with a bit of room to spare. It wasn’t a great movie, but I think it was a good one.
For the question of how they were going to stretch the original story out, they didn’t. Actually, they compressed it quite a bit. How they made this work is by framing it within another story. We have the original story of a man biggering his industry at the expense of an expanse of trees until there are none left, but it’s something that is told to us as part of the longer narrative and we’re spared a lot of the greed and excess that the original describes. I can understand why they did that, to make the Once-ler a more sympathetic character. We see him as basically a decent fellow with good intentions and a lack of foresight, and he gets caught up in the moment, whereas in the book he comes across as deliberately destructive.
But where the original work ends off on a slight downer, the movie’s ending is more of a triumph. Instead of showing us how bad things can get and suggesting that change is possible, it shows us what change can bring about. I suppose this is watering down the environmentalist message, but considering we’re forty years after The Lorax first saw print and we’re still cutting down rainforests and drilling for oil and sending smoke and garbage up into the atmosphere, maybe it’s the right message for modern youth. Instead of saying, “This is what a bad thing looks like, and we leave the future in your hands”, it’s more of a “This is what can happen when you decide to do a good thing”. It focuses on the positive force for change rather than the negative, encouraging kids to be that force rather than giving them an idea of what not to be.
At any rate, I think that, despite the watered-down message, it still serves as a useful talking point for parents. When kids ask questions about their environment and their future, The Lorax movie can still be pointed to as an example not just of what bad environmental behaviour looks like, but as an ice-breaker for the topic of demonstrating and discovering the good things that can be done. Could it have been better? Absolutely, but I think it was pretty good as it was.