Friday 30 November 2012

On DVD: "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax"

The American humorist Theodor Seuss is one of those writers not terribly well served by the cinema, perhaps because his verse is so formally perfect as is, and thus unlikely to survive the intervention of meddling producers and screenwriters. That hasn't stopped Hollywood from attempting to cash in on awareness of the Seuss brand, though the financial success of 2000's live-action The Grinch should be set against the colossal flop of 2004's notably gaudy The Cat in the Hat, and the marked creative indifference of numerous animated Seusses up to and including 2008's Horton Hears a Who!

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which hit DVD last week in time for Christmas, is not untypical of the studios' mishandling of Seuss: it permits exactly thirty seconds of authentic Seussian rhymes before setting about the books' environmentally sound message - don't go cutting down trees to make your money - with the latter-day animated sector's usual mix of so-so songs, busy slapstick, and whatever celebrity voices there were left to hand once 2012's other fifty holiday-season titles had been cast. (If he were still around, Seuss would have a good legal case for taking that possessive credit off the title.)

To compensate for the near total absence of charm, director Chris Renaud - who directed the superior Despicable Me - dials up the energy and colour, but rather than driving the book's point home with characters and scenarios we might care about, he defaults altogether too willingly to the business of providing cutesy critters making quasi-funny high-pitched noises for the distraction of pre-teens with severely foreshortened attention spans. This type of product would be the number one movie in any real-life equivalent of Seuss's fake plastic berg Thneedville for months, if not years - the empty popcorn containers littering the cola-sodden carpets of its multiplexes standing as testimony to how little the film means what little it has to say.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is available on DVD now.

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