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Featured 3D Blu-ray Review: Doctor Seuss' The Lorax

August 7th, 2012

Doctor Seuss' The Lorax - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, 3D Combo Pack

The Lorax is the fourth Dr. Seuss book adapted to a feature-length movie. I haven't seen all of the rest (I only saw enough of The Cat in the Hat to know I didn't want to finish watching it) but I did like Horton Hears A Who. Will this film live up to that one? And is it worth buying? And is it worth paying extra for the 3D?

The Movie

The movie begins with the Lorax introducing himself to the audience and then introducing us to the town of Thneedville, a town that is made entirely out of plastic, which culminates in a long song and dance number. We are introduced to Aloysius O'Hare, owner of O'Hare Air, the richest man in town, who got rich selling people bottled air. We are also introduced to Ted.

Ted is in love with Audrey and at the beginning of the film, he uses his brand new toy model plane as an excuse to come over. Audrey is unusual for a resident of Thneedville, because she wants to see a real tree, whereas the rest of the town is happy with their plastic lives. When Ted asks his mother where to get a tree, his Grandma Norma tells him about the Once-ler, the only man who knows where the trees have gone. The journey to the Once-ler is long and involves a little bit of peril, but when Ted gets there and has convinced the Once-ler he is interested in knowing what happened to the trees, the Oncer-ler tells him a tale.

When the Once-ler was a young man, he invented the Thneed, an invention that could do the job of a thousand other items, but he needed the perfect material to make it. He finds that in the Truffula trees. When he chops down his first tree, he accidentally summoned The Lorax, the Guardian of the Forest, who speaks for the tree. If Ted wants to hear the rest, he will will have to return the next day. That will be difficult, as Aloysius O'Hare found out he is interested in trees and since trees make air for free, he considers them a threat to his business. Ted is still willing to go, because love is a powerful motivating force, and over the next few visits, he learns about the mistakes the Once-ler made, and how his greed overcame his common sense and he destroyed the environment. But will Ted learn a way to fix the mistakes the Once-ler made?

The Lorax, the book, is less than 4,000 words long compared to the average novel, which is about 100,000 words. So adapting this story, which doesn't really qualify as a short story, into a feature-length novel is tricky. You need to expand on the characters and the action by a large amount, but still hold onto the essence of the story. In this case, the end result is a lot of padding, including several really unnecessary song and dance numbers. The romance between Ted and Audrey isn't poorly done, but it is very unnecessary. Aloysius O'Hare as a baddie is, and I hate to repeat myself, unnecessary. There are some good jokes here and there, like when Ted tries to jump the gorge early in the film to get to the Once-ler, but overall there isn't a lot of humor either. The sense of wonder that Dr. Seuss is famous here is here, but diluted when compared to some of his works in the past.

On the other hand, the central environmental message is intact, and when it isn't overshadowed by filler, it is very powerful. If the rest of the film was as powerful as seeing the Lorax and the animals leave the desolated forest, then this could have been a classic film. Instead, what we are left with is a film that is okay most of the time, with a few points that are amazing and a few points that are much weaker than okay.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with the two co-directors, Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda. There are also three short films, Wagon Ho!, Forces of Nature, and Serenade, plus a short making of featurette on these three films. Combined they are just twelve minutes, so there's not a lot here. There is one extended scene that shows what happened to the Thneed after the Once-ler threw it away. Seuss Up the Screen talks about adapting the style of Dr. Seuss to the big screen. Seuss it Up! has Mark O'Hare, a story artist, showing a group of kids how to draw different characters. Finally, there's Once-ler's Wagon, which is an interactive feature that allows you to select items and see how the forest creatures interact with them.

The Blu-ray has all of these, plus a lot of exclusives. You can watch the movie with O'Hare TV, which includes about 8 minutes of commercials for fake O'Hare TV shows and products. Expedition of Truffula Valley is an interactive feature that shows concept art, bios, animation tests, the Seuss It up! segments, etc. for characters from the movie. There are three short games: Get out of Town, Truffula Run, and Grow Your Own Truffula Tree. Finally, there's a sing-along for the theme song.

The Blu-ray looks and sounds amazing. The colors are gorgeous, but that should come as no surprise, as this is a Dr. Seuss movie, while the blacks are incredibly deep and the contrast is strong. For the most part, the film doesn't have the same level of detail as some other digitally animated films; however, this is because the town of Thneedville is made of plastic, so the lack of fine details makes sense in the artificial world. I didn't see any digital artifacts or compression issues either. The audio is nearly as good with excellent use of the surround sound speakers, dynamic effects, ambient sounds, etc.

As for the 3-D effects, this is the first 3-D film I've had to chance to review and my first thing I realized was... I need to get 3-D glasses that fit over prescription eye glasses. I wonder if there are clip on 3-D lenses? Ignoring that issue, the 3-D here is very well done and helps create a world with real depth. While throwing things at the screen is fun, giving the image depth is more important when it comes to good use of the technology and this film has enough of both that the 3-D is an asset and not a cheap gimmick.

Finally we get to the prices. The DVD is $17, while the Blu-ray combo price is just $20. That's an excellent deal, especially since the combo pack comes with the DVD. If you want to upgrade to 3-D, the price is $28, which is not a bad deal, but 40% more is on the high end of the acceptable range.

The Verdict

Doctor Seuss' The Lorax is not as good as like Horton Hears A Who. The filmmakers took a really important message, one that is even more important now than it was 40 years ago when it was first written, and covered it will too many extraneous characters and events. It is still worth checking out, but it is not a classic like it could have been. If you are only interested in a rental, then the DVD is fine, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack has additional extras and is absolutely worth the extra money. I can't be as enthusiastic with my recommendation for the 3D Combo Pack, but if your kids liked the film and like 3-D films in general, then it is probably worth the extra money.


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