To start off here I’m going to be assuming you’ve seen this trailer, so do that first. None of the rest is going to be much use without that.
No matter what the zit twins say, Lorax does not, in fact, “looks bad,” and I will not be telling you to see Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie instead of The Lorax.
(I’ll tell you to see it in addition to The Lorax. Yeah. Have it both ways, motherfuckers.*)
What it does looks, though, is conflicted, and that’s why I’m taking an inordinate amount of time right now to complain at whoever’s reading this about Studio-Driven Animated Films. This applies to Studio-Driven Any Films as well but it is a bit more of a special situation with CGI tentpoles, for reasons that will become pretty clear pretty soon; for those same exact reasons Pixar is mostly to entirely exempt.
The Lorax is especially upsetting to me because it’s very clear from the two trailers released thus far that there is a great deal of ambition behind it. The film has what is by far some of the absolute best art direction I have ever seen in an animated film; this is way beyond Blue Sky’s 2008 adaptation of Horton Hears a Who!, and I fucking loved Horton Hears a Who!. There are as many colors here as (if not more than!) the Wachowski’s Speed Racer and they’re used almost as well.
Basically the film looks like fucking poetry of the delirious, exhausting Prufrock variety set in visual motion and no i am not giving it too much credit
And, be me influenced by the brilliant choice of music or not, its trailer put me through a rush of brain-melting anticipatory filmic joy I hadn’t felt since the first Scott Pilgrim trailer, and I went into that one completely biased toward the film in question.
AND THEN YOU HIT THE ONE MINUTE AND THIRTY SECONDS MARK and it just fucking loses that. It’s fucking gone.
aaaaactually wait nope it just stops the momentum a bit there; we go from a beautiful sense of otherworldly discovery to Danny Devito the Talking Mystical Animal being deliciously curt in an animated film, which although not a problem (especially if his track record with this sort of thing is any indication at all) is certainly jarring.
And then a half a second later we get a stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid trite stupid gag that throws off all of the buildup and ruins everything and makes me want to die and then rise from the dead just so that I can die again.
In a word, it’s bullshit.
It tries to retake its lost ground after that but isn’t really successful; there’s a shot of a fish sighing in relief, a bunch of Gratuitous Animation Grunts (incidentally I could and probably will have another entire article’s worth of hot yelly nonsense about G.A.G.s becuase seriously) and then a cut toTHE KNOWLEDGE THAT TAYLOR SWIFT IS STARRING IN THE FILM and then a gender confusion joke and
Here’s the problem. The Lorax, as with most modern studio animated films, has two directors.
Two of them. In this case, Chris Renaud (who was a co-director on Despicable Me, a film that had the unfortunate problem of being not nearly as good as Megamind) and Kyle Balda, who is a newcomer to feature directing.
The reason that modern studio films have two directors is because modern studio films are producer-driven, and two directors means a faster and easier production time; one director will typically handle lighter, more comedic scenes, while the other handles the more dramatic ones. (In this case, I’m guessing that Balda is handling the dramatic scenes and Renaud the comedic ones because the stench of Despicable Me’s ohteetee slapstick is all around the gags thrown in this trailer.)
This leads to films with tones that screwball -wildly;- rarely are the two directors entirely copacetic with each other (Sanders/Deblois notwithstanding) which leads to -competent- but entirely unspectacular movies built to make as much money as possible (Pixar, as mentioned, doesn’t have this problem, because they are an entirely director-driven studio. To date, they’ve never had a tag team, and the creative energy on their films is generally through the roof).
This is a problem in the case of The Lorax especially because behind the wall of glib celebrity there is something genuinely special here that goes beyond its source material. I hope we get something closer to a Fantastic Mr. Fox situation than a 9 one-the film’s jokes, perhaps, could be better in their own context- but I’m not even close to holding my breath on that.
Totally off subject: “Lorax” absolutely sounds like it could feasibly be a brand of bug spray or other household cleaner type product, like a laxative.
*seriously though T&EB$M looks pretty terrific