- May 9, 2003
The Lorax is fairly strange hybrid of a movie. It wants to be a kind of carefree animated movie for kids, and yet it has some very serious business on its mind. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the movie never really makes up its mind as to what it wants to be. Which leaves the viewer with a vaguely dissatisfied feeling. The new Blu-ray release spotlights the movie as best it can, with solid picture and sound, and a fairly generous collection of extras, mostly aimed toward children. A separate 3D Blu-ray is also for sale, but has not been seen by this reviewer yet.
Studio: Universal/Illumination Entertainment
Length: 1 hr 27 mins
Genre: Animation/Dr. Seuss/Ecology
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, (AVC @ 30 mbps)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 4.2 mbps up to 5.2 mbps)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: PG (Brief Mild Language)
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Starring: The Voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggles, Betty White and Jenny Slate
Based on the Book by: Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Written by: Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Directed by: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Film Rating: 2 ½/5
The Lorax is truly a confusing mixture of different story ideas and tones. At its best moments, it’s an engaging kids’ animated adventure, with some good CGI work to hold younger viewers’ attention. But those moments are in a movie that has a very dark environmental message and an undercurrent of sadness that overwhelms the light much of the time. The basic story mostly follows the Dr. Seuss book, where the barely-seen Once-ler tells the tale of how a beautiful green valley was transformed into a polluted modern world. To say more would take us into the spoilers to follow in the next paragraphs. The short version for everyone else is that it’s hard to combine a happy, fun kids’ animated musical with a grim and almost pleading environmental moral. This really isn’t the material from which to make another Despicable Me, no matter what the filmmakers may have thought.
SPOILERS: The story actually embellishes on the Seuss original, padding it out by nearly half in order to include a series of songs and wacky characters that have little or nothing to do with the base material. The movie presents a totally artificial community called Thneedville, where not a single tree or natural element can be found. Early in the story, a young boy is motivated to search outside the community for a real tree. Things begin with the expected musical numbers and silly slapstick inside the town. And then the boy gets outside the town walls and finds a devastated and nearly apocalyptic terrain, filled with endless stumps of what were once trees. His journey takes him to the house of the Once-ler, who tells the boy the story of how this area was once a lush, green valley filled with all kinds of cute animals. The flashbacks to this time have the expected comic elements and over-the-top wackiness as the Once-ler meets the animals. And yet, there is a tremendous aura of sadness hanging over even these scenes. The sight of the Once-ler showering the animals with marshmallows isn’t funny so much as it is disturbing. The Once-ler chops down a Truffula Tree to harvest for his Thneed idea, and as he does so, everyone in the valley shudders in revulsion. The title character, the Lorax, appears at this time, warning him not to do that again. The fun and games suddenly lurch into darker territory as the Lorax leads the animals in a funeral for the tree destroyed by the Once-ler. Things go back into sillier places as the animals accidentally drop the Once-ler’s bed into a river that plunges into rapids and then a waterfall.
SPOILERS: The movie continues to lurch back and forth between moments of deep sadness and moments of out-and-out slapstick, as we see the progression of the Once-ler’s business to the point that he’s chopped down the last of the trees and all the animals are forced to leave what is now a gray and desolate place. Even the Lorax departs, leaving the Once-ler with a little stone that reads “UNLESS” – which both the movie and the book make clear is a prod to the young boy (and the viewer/reader) to DO SOMETHING to change things. The movie then plunges back into full slapstick and material right out of Despicable Me, as the boy brings the last Truffula seed into Thneedville and winds up in a wild chase to plant it before sinister agents stop him. Of course, this leads to a climactic group musical number as the seed is planted. Things then shift to a more wistful note as we can see that some time has passed and life and the trees are now returning to the valley, which is starting to turn green again. As the animals begin to return, the movie gives the repentant Once-ler a final gift – the Lorax returns to tell him he’s done good and comments on the now aged man’s moustache. The movie then ends with credits that hearken back to some of the sillier moments with the animals. To say this ending is incongruous with what has gone before would be an understatement. The book simply ends with the potential that if the boy plants the seed, good things will happen. The movie tries to turn this into a full-scale happy ending that doesn’t belong in this story. It’s even more egregious to have the Lorax tell the man who caused all the devastation that he’s done well, when the actual work was done by the young boy. The point of the story is that it’s the good the boy is capable of doing that can save the world – not that the Once-ler should be celebrated for realizing how much damage he caused.
FINAL SPOILERS: The Lorax is clearly meant to be seen in 3D, with multiple sequences lending themselves to a dimensional view. There’s the bed river ride, the multiple scooter trips by the boy, and that climactic chase. Even the credits sequence is intended to have multiple layers going. As I have only seen this in 2D, I can attest that there’s plenty of detail in the CGI animation, but I can’t comment on the obvious effect we are meant to experience.
The Lorax is being released on Blu-ray and standard definition today, as well as in a separate 3D edition. The Blu-ray has the movie in high definition picture and sound, along with an armload of extras. The Blu-ray package includes the DVD, which holds some of the same extras, and one additional one not found on the Blu-ray. An insert provides the code for obtaining Ultraviolet or Digital copies of the movie. The usual pocket BLU and BD-Live functionality is also included.
VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5
The Lorax is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 transfer that really showers the screen with color. On a technical level, this is a great-looking Blu-ray, with the transfer showing plenty of detail in the animated CGI landscapes and characters. The style is obviously similar to Despicable Me, but in this film, things are working on a larger canvas of characters and environments.
AUDIO QUALITY 4 ½/5
The Lorax is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that fills the home theater with music and sound effects, much in the same way that the same company did with the Blu-ray of Despicable Me. In addition to the high definition audio, there are Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks, and an English DVS track..
SPECIAL FEATURES 3/5
The Blu-ray presentation of The Lorax comes with a pretty generous pile of special features, mostly intended for use by children. Some of the extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray, some are shared between the Blu-ray and the DVD and there’s one that is actually exclusive to the DVD. The Blu-ray also includes the usual BD-Live, pocket BLU and bookmarking functionality, as well as D-Box for viewers who have that ability. The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD as well as an insert with the code for obtaining a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie.
My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.
BD Live – The usual Blu-ray online functionality is present, allowing the viewer to access trailers and other bonus content through the Universal portal.
pocket BLU – The Universal application for smartphones and tablets is present here, allowing the viewer to use their device as an effective remote, and to access some of the bonus content through that device.
Commentary with Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This scene-specific commentary with the co-directors finds them in a pretty jovial mood. They begin with the note that this movie may have been the very first Universal release to use the new 100th Anniversary logo. There’s some discussion of the performances of the various cast and of the differences between the Dr. Seuss book and this adaptation. They’re both very pleased with the movie, and apparently don’t realize the incongruity of the ending, which they say is based on illustration seen at the very end of the book.
Mini-Movies (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Three short animated films are included on the disc, each focusing on a moment with either the young adventures of the Once-ler or of the animals during the time when the valley was green.
Wagon Ho (3:10, 1080p, Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound) – This short vignette shows what happens when the animals go on a little joyride with the Once-ler’s wagon.
Forces of Nature (2:14, 1080p, Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound) – This short has the Lorax enlisting Pipsqueak to help him scare the Once-ler into leaving the valley, with very wet results for the Lorax.
Serenade (3:19, 1080p, Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound) – This short is a singing competition between two of the barbaloots as they try to woo another.
Making the Mini-Movies (3:31, 1080p) – This quick featurette discusses the origin of the mini-movies, in that they are really just concepts and material that didn’t quite make it into the final movie. “Forces of Nature” got the farthest along before it was realized that it was repetitive of the river ride beat and was then detoured to the short subject. Some demonstration is shown that the mini-movies make use of the same CGI assets and models developed already for the film.
Deleted Scene (1:31, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is actually an extended version of the scene where the Once-ler’s Thneed sample winds up on the head of a girl who makes it desirable for everyone. It’s really a kind of wild stunt ride that doesn’t have a lot of purpose to it as the Thneed lands on different people including a motorcyclist. The nicest part of the scene has the motorbike jumping through the giant donut logo of “Hertz Donuts”. If you don’t know what a Hertz Donut is, just ask a nine-year-old boy.
O’Hare TV (1 hr 34 mins, 1080p, DTS 5.1 Sound @ 768 kbps) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This exclusive Blu-ray feature is an alternate way to view the whole movie. When you use this function, the movie is periodically interrupted by commercials and commentaries by the O’Hare company – the sinister forces that actually run Thneedville.
Expedition of Truffula Valley (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This exclusive Blu-ray function is a kind of interactive tour of the characters. You can either hop through menu screens of the valley or of Thneedville, where various characters are displayed on each page. The characters are accompanied by various icons, which when clicked will reveal statistics about the characters or show concept artwork.
Seuss to Screen (4:27, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This short featurette covers the basics of the making of the movie, including the usual soundbites and mutual compliments from the cast and the creative staff.
Once-ler’s Wagon Game (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This game is really just a matter of clicking on various items that are scattered from Once-ler’s Wagon onscreen and then seeing what brief animation is shown. Some of this is concept art or early animatics. Different items can be scattered from the wagon by clicking at the appropriate place.
Get Out of Town Game (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This Blu-ray exclusive game has the viewer using their remote or Playstation Controller to safely direct young Ted on his scooter out of Thneedville. In concept, it actually looks a bit like an old SNES game from the mid 1990s. This should be a piece of cake for the kids to which it is aimed.
Truffula Run Game (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This game has the viewer trying to maneuver the Lorax through the valley without running into tree stumps that sap his energy. This is actually very repetitive, but kids might enjoy it more than a cranky reviewer.
“Let it Grow” Sing Along (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This sing-along function allows the viewer to sing along with the end credits song. I admit that I did not actually sing while viewing this function.
DVD (480p Copy of the movie, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound @ 448 kbps) – The DVD release of the movie is included in the package. The movie is presented in standard definition picture and sound (with English, French and Spanish DD 5.1 and the English DVS track), along with the commentary, the mini-movies and featurette, the deleted scene, the “Seuss to Screen” featurette, the Sing Along, and two of the games. Previews are presented for multiple movies in a separate menu: Hop, Despicable Me, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Coraline, Babe, Curious George, The Land Before Time, and Curious George Spring Special. There is also a drawing demonstration exclusive to the DVD:
Seuss it Up! (10:28 Total, 3 Featurettes) (EXCLUSIVE TO DVD) – This is actually three short featurettes running about 3 minutes each. The featurettes are designed to show kids how to draw various characters from the movie. The three sections are: “The Lorax”, “Barbaloots” and “Hummingfish”. No, I did not actually try to draw along with the kids.
Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging includes an insert with a code for getting a digital or Ultraviolet copy of the movie. The copy must be streamed or downloaded by April 30, 2015.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
IN THE END...
The Lorax is neither the happy animated kids’ adventure you might expect from the advertising, nor is it a true adaptation of the downbeat Dr. Seuss tale it adapts. By trying to accommodate both ideas, it achieves neither. It still has some nice moments, but I don’t know that this will be enough to justify a purchase. The Blu-ray is certainly a nice package, with good picture and sound, and a generous assortment of extras for kids. Fans of the story may want to rent this, as may fans of Despicable Me.
August 7, 2012.
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at “THX” picture mode
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer