The Lorax (2012)


Unless Someone Like You Cares a Whole Lot, Nothing is Going to Get Better. It’s not.

Today’s movie came as a request from my friend Forty, but I’m not entirely sure why. My best guess is that he’s a dad and that means that I, as his single review-writing friend, should be forced to watch the same crap that he must at the behest of his daughter. So I guess that means today’s review came as a request from Eden. Either way, it was a request, and one easy enough to comply with as my roommate Richurd had purchased this movie on Vudu some time ago, so it was ready for me whenever I got around to it. I also get to go into this review relatively clean because I have next to no memory of the Dr. Seuss book that this movie is based on. Something about trees, I think? Well, we’ll find out as I review The Lorax, based on a Dr. Seuss children’s book, written for the screen by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, and featuring the voices of Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Betty White, Jenny Slate, Nasim Pedrad, Stephen Tobolowsky, Elmarie Wendel, and Danny Cooksey.

Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron) lives in the town of Thneedville, a walled city so surrounded by the pollution of industry that they actually sell air in bottles to people, and everything in the city is artificial, including the plants. Ted has a crush on a girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift), who wants to see a real life tree. In order to impress her, he sets out to find a tree. Under the advice of his grandmother, Grammy Norma (Betty White), he tracks down the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who tells Ted how he is responsible for the deforestation because he broke his promise to The Lorax (Danny DeVito), who speaks for the trees because trees have no tongues of their own.

I can’t really say I was disappointed by The Lorax because I went into it with low expectations, but I didn’t think this was that good of a movie. It wasn’t bad; I just felt like I was wasting my time watching it. It wasn’t without a point, but the point it was trying to make was one that I found tedious and ham-fisted. I knew what the message of the movie was going to be before I started watching it, and it did not take long for me to get sick of being beat over the head with it. Yes, deforestation is bad. Yes, every business ever is bad. Nothing good has ever come from cutting down a tree. Even when they cut those trees down to make paper that could be used to print the words of Dr. Seuss. I’m sure it was all printed on recycled paper. It also wasn’t funny. It gained a couple of minor smirks out of me with a couple of cute and quirky comments, but towards the end it had devolved into, “It’s funny when old people do young things like snowboard, isn’t it?” …No, no it’s not.

The biggest issue I took with the movie was its musical numbers. I’ve complained before about musicals forcing their movie to be a musical with pointless and unnecessary musical interludes, but this movie goes even further with that. They give the Once-ler a guitar for no reason other than to make him be able to break into song out of nowhere. Some musicals can get by on this bullshit by having good songs, but the Lorax blew its load in the introduction of the film, as the credits still rolled, and then only gave us mediocre songs or worse.

The thing this movie does right is definitely the look. It captures the wackiness and imagination of Dr. Seuss in a beautiful and colorful CG world. I wouldn’t give much imagination credit to this movie though, since that all came from Seuss, but they captured it well. The settings were evocative and created the mood they wanted. The town was clean and fake, the wilderness before people messed it up was lush and colorful, and the same area after was dark and depressing. They also did a good job of making all the forest creatures overly adorable. The fish were kind of funny and the fat bear made for some easy “This bear likes to eat everything” jokes, but I think my favorite was the tiny duck-like creature that sat around with a dumb look on its face, randomly quacking.

The Lorax isn’t a bad movie. It’s just not a good one. It could get away with beating us over the head with its environmentalist message if it was funny or interesting, but it never really mustered that, try as it might. It also forced itself to be a musical for no good reason, forgetting of course to have some good songs. In its defense, it is a very pretty movie with lots of cute animals, so your kids will probably enjoy it. You, on the other hand, might find it tough to pay attention to, especially numerous times as kids tend to view things. I say skip it. The Lorax gets “You have been warned!” out of “Unless.”

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The Proposal (2009)


Will You Marry Me?  Because I’d Like to Date You

I have only dim recollection of what lead me to put today’s movie in my Netflix queue, and I’m pretty sure it was mostly based on the fact that Sandra Bullock was nude (ish) in the movie.  I’m not sure that this could be the entirety of the situation because I was well aware of the fact that she covered up all the good bits.  And so I am lead to believe that something about this Rom-Com sparked my interest, whether it was the stars of the movie, the expectation of charm from the movie, or maybe I just wanted to shit on it in a review.  Whatever lead me to it, the movie finally arrived (though it was mainly because I wasn’t paying attention to what was coming up on my queue) and I sat down and watched it.  The Proposal was written by Peter Chiarelli, directed by Anne Fletcher, and starring Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Denis O’Hare, Betty White, Mary Steenburgen, Craig T. Nelson, Oscar Nunez, Malin Akerman, and Aasif Mandvi.

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is an editor at a book publishing company who moonlights as a mega-bitch.  America comes along with a way to put this uppity bitch in her place: Canada.  Turns out she never got her work visa renewed and she’s going to get deported.  Inspiration comes in the well-chiseled form of her assistant, Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), who unwittingly gets roped into fake marrying her.  All their problems are not quite solved, as Immigration Officer Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O’Hare) will be keeping a close eye on them.  To keep up the facade, Margaret accompanies Andrew to Sitka, Alaska, where he was headed to celebrate the birthday of his grandmother Annie (Betty White), along with his mother Grace (Mary Steenburgen), father Joe (Craig T. Nelson), and ex-girlfriend Gertrude (Malin Akerman).  Chances are very good that things will not go smoothly.

I was very surprised to find myself somewhat charmed by this movie.  Much less surprised, however, to find that I had a couple of complaints about it.  It’s a romantic comedy to be sure, but neither the romance nor the comedy worked very well for me.  I’m not too masculine to admit when I like a Rom-Com.  In fact, I’m not too masculine at all.  There have been a few Rom-Com’s that I’ve found appealing in the past, but this movie didn’t live up to it’s genre.  The romance of the movie was somewhat present, but one of the biggest part of the Rom-Com is at the very end, having endured the hardships that the movie has put upon the couple only to leave them realizing that they’re actually in love and coming together with some big gushy speech and a kiss.  It had the hardships, it had the love, and it had the reunion, but the big gushy speech didn’t have the impact that better written movies usually do in this moment.  The last speech should be so icky and cheesy that women should get so moist downstairs that they slide out of their movie theater seats.  That sentence had plenty of icky, but lacked cheesiness, so I wouldn’t put it in a Rom-Com.  The second half of the genre never really showed up for me either.  The movie had it’s charms, but barely strayed too near actual funniness.  The greater majority of the attempts at comedy in this movie were people asking Margaret and Andrew a relationship question and they had to bumble about to make up an answer.  Also, who the fuck just randomly tells people they need to make out in front of them?  At one point, right after announcing their “engagement”, the people of Andrew’s family say “KISS HER!” and will not take no for an answer.  Why not just leave behind all civility and command him to throw her to the ground and dry hump her until their pants start a fire?  Some people (decent people, if you ask me) don’t feel it’s appropriate to make out in public.  I’m okay with a goodbye peck, but when my high school friend tried to see how far he could get his tongue down his girlfriend’s throat as my mother and I stood by waiting to give him a ride home, civilized folk might think that to be in poor taste.  Let’s face it, the whole movie is so predictable that you can watch the trailer and give a dissertation on the whole movie, as if the trailer itself served double duty as the Cliff Notes.  It has the same problems as the greater majority of Chick Flicks in that it cannot deviate from the pattern.  Problem, off-kilter solution, speed bumps, climactic boiling point, gushy speech, love, ending.  There’s a Rom-Com for you.  I know there are some women smart enough to not have their ponytail explode on them if there is an unexpected twist in a movie, but they still flock to these movies as if their vaginas were going to stop working if they didn’t.  I guess men have our big dumb action flicks as the other side of that coin.  They even do that thing I point out a lot where they “subtly” have Margaret announce “You know I can’t swim” early on in the movie and SURPRISE, she falls into the water later on.  For another note, I found it amusing that the movie opened with Sandra Bullock doing the exact same thing I was doing: riding a stationary bike while watching a TV.  Yes, with my new exercise plan of riding a bike as I do my movies, you will all soon love me for my mind AND body.  Also, Ryan Reynolds was in my bed, just as he was in the movie!  But that’s another story.

I think any issues I had with this movie would mainly be the cause of the writers and not the cast.  They performed as well as they could under the circumstances.  Sandra Bullock played it bitchy, standoffish, and out of her element for the greater majority of the movie.  I still found myself charmed by her, even with her rough exterior.  When that exterior begins to crack and you see signs of the vulnerable person beneath, she hooked me.  One thing she did in the movie brought a very important question to mind: do women not know about morning wood?  She seemed very shocked and confused by Reynold’s morning wood, but I was under the impression that this was a well-known phenomenon.  Of course, I am a guy.  Speaking of, Ryan Reynolds is in this movie too.  I never really understood his appeal though.  I mean, I look exactly the same as he does with my shirt off, but I have the decency to keep my shirt on.  Does every man not look like us?  I’m confused …  Either way, he’s in the movie so he, of course, gets his abs out.  I felt like he was a little too much of a dick to Bullock once he was taking advantage of doing her a favor.  I understand that everyone in the movie world dealt with Sandra being a bitch for 3 years, but we only had about a half hour of it before he started being the asshole, so our impression as an audience would tend to sway towards “Why’s he being such a dick?”  Betty White was pretty enjoyable in the movie, but they take the easy approach to making comedy for her by turning everything she does into “Old People Do the Darnedest Things”.  The part where she was doing the strange chanting thing in the woods served no purpose whatsoever, especially since it wasn’t very humorous.  And how did an uptight person like Margaret know the lyrics to “Get Low” by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz?  She’s an editor, and should find the misspelling of “little” and “boys” abhorrent.  Mary Steenburgen had a disappointingly small role in the movie, and Craig T. Nelson pretty much just served as the antagonist to Reynolds.  Oscar Nunez had some parts that some might find funny, but I don’t find it shocking enough to see an out of shape person dancing in Speedos.  I see that all the time.  The idea that he played so many roles around town could have been funny, but they didn’t really write it to much effect.  It was novel of the movie to not take the obvious approach with Malin Akerman’s ex-girlfriend character, making her a bitch who would get in the way of Sandra and Ryan, but they just decided to make her wallpaper for most of the scenes she was in.  Pretty to look at, but you forget it’s there after some time.  Having her going after Reynolds would’ve been an interesting quandary.  Given the choice, I think I’d have a hard time choosing between Sandra Bullock and Malin Akerman too.  I guess it would depend on what I was choosing them for.  Sandra’s the kind you take home to momma, and Malin seems like the kind that you just take home.  I suppose there’s a chance she’s got a good personality to go with them good looks though.

I feel like this is a movie that the cast did their best to elevate, but the writers could not be swayed to do anything beyond the cookie cutter movie.  If you know this movie exists, you can probably tell me (with a very low margin of error) exactly where it’s going.  It’s charming, but not that romantic or funny.  It’s not painful to watch, but it’s entirely forgettable.  And skippable.  I don’t think I’d recommend you watch this movie, but I also don’t think you’d hate it if you did.  I’ll leave you to make your own decisions.  I’ve given you enough random words for this day.  To add a few more, The Proposal gets “I’m sorry for feeding you to the eagle” out of “I call it ‘The Baby Maker’.”

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