05 October 2012

2LR: The Lorax

So, I finally have a good description for what I'm doing... I'm calling it Too Late Reviews, 2LR.  Today's 2LR will be of The Lorax, which came out only seven months ago.  I suppose I'm catching up way too quickly.

The movie opens almost immediately on a song, which in some ways I thought was a bit worrisome.  There are more than a few movies that use songs to cover up deficiencies, and other movies that are told by the studio that songs are necessary and breaks the flow of the movie.  The song was inoffensive enough though and introduces the plastic, completely artificial town and O'Hare Air, evil business du'jour, which takes a page from Spaceballs by peddling a home-based "Perri-Air" business... y'see, the air is terrible here.  Except it's really not shown... ?!?

So, the main character "Ted" tools around the town and then kickstarts the plot in one of the most cliche ways possible.  Y'see, Teddy's in LUUUUV, and the source of his crush is a girl that took the time and effort to paint Truffula trees up and down the backside of her house ('cause, y'see, she's a girl and doesn't have any parents).  She tells him about the Truffula trees, though how she knew we don't know.  Ted goes back home and talks to Grand-mama -- voice of Betty White, and I endorse her work -- and she finishes the prologue by referring Ted to the Once-ler.

So, the movie takes a hard right turn into flashback mode, when the forest was full of Truffula trees, where the bar-ba-loots play and the fish sing (!?).  Once-ler not only wields an axe, but plays one too.  His electric guitar is in direct counterpoint to the fish singing (!? again), and sure enough the first Truffula tree is felled, bringing in the Lorax.

At this point, you could almost extrapolate a Warner Bros. cartoon from the setting.  There's a dude with a guitar, a bunch of bar-ba-loots including the big fat one and the little cute teddi-loot, the honky birds, the singy fish, and the Lorax.  There were a couple of cute jokes going on, including one involving static electricity.

The show cuts back from "The Lorax" to Ted's story again, and we find out that... surprise surprise... the rich dude not only has everyone under surveillance, but also that he's threatened by the idea of trees.  This actually becomes the more important part of the movie, which will be explained later.

Anyway, Ted slips the surveillance and sees the Once-ler the next day, and the Once-ler goes through the second half of the book itself.  During this sequence, there was another song ("How Bad Can I Be?"), and this one was actually rather enjoyable.

Right after the song, a bunch of the threads come together (no pun, I swear).  Between O'Hare and the Once-ler, you can almost draw a direct line between all of the bad habits that literally help businesses.  Companies pay big money to access information about people in order to tailor their products to market, and companies are also very interested in erecting barriers to entry.  After all, the tree symbolizes something for free that people used to pay for, so the air tycoon O'Hare is more than happy to try to stop it in any way possible.  Directly after the song, the Once-ler has a line that is very telling, when he tells the Lorax that all of what the Once-ler is doing is "perfectly legal."

And it is.  That's the biggest key though... the Lorax in the book and in the movie is supposed to represent not only "the trees", but the Once-ler's conscience.  When the Once-ler tells the Lorax that what he's doing is legal, he's telling his conscience not only to shut up but also saying something very profound.  There are quite a few people who believe in Adam Smith's "invisible hand", but self-interest also results in the invisible hand punching hippies and other bums who attempt to represent a different point of view.  Earlier in the movie, it was shown that the Once-ler's family bowed to the Once-ler's promise to the Lorax not to cut any more trees down... but after the family proved to be incompetent, the trees started falling and never stopped.  There was never a point where the Once-ler could say, "We have demand covered for the time being, let's slow down"... it was full speed ahead.

And obviously, it is a cautionary tale because the trees are truly a renewable resource, and even then the Once-ler managed to run out of them.  Businessmen have since learned that the Once-ler's model is not correct, because enforced scarcity (especially in a monopoly setting) allows for price gouging.  Anyway, the Once-ler gets the seed to Ted, Ted takes the seed back to town, the townspeople at first agree with O'Hare to tell Ted to stuff the seed, and then Ted takes heavy equipment to break down the wall.

The wall is the catharsis and the key, I think, especially when it comes to this day and age.  The wall galvanizes the crowd because they see the abject misery of the environment beyond the walls.  Then comes the last song where the crowd gives approval to Ted to plant the tree in downtown... up to and including O'Hare's heavies.

Two last points... even O'Hare's heavies abandoned him at the end of the movie.  This doesn't happen in real life, when there are so many people that are dependent on companies that can tend to destruction for profit, especially when money can be passed around to make sure that enough people are "taken care of".

The second point is this... Ted, the main character, did ALL OF THIS... destroyed the status quo, possibly made other people sick due to breaking the walls and letting in the dirty air, breaking the O'Hare monopoly... in order to get a kiss on the cheek from the token female prize.  *sigh*

Overall, the songs actually add to the film, the film does have a very important message though it is a bit out-of-date to our current situations, and the movie has enough humor to be interesting for the little ones.  I would give it a 3.1 rating on my 1-4 scale, I would certainly enjoy seeing it another time and seems to be a good way to illustrate some of the natural conflicts that occur between the marketplace and the community.

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