“The Lorax,” the movie adaptation of the Dr. Seuss story that taught the “Free to Be You and Me” generation about environmentalism, raked in $70.7 million over the weekend. That made it the No. 1 movie at the box office and the film currently boasting the strongest debut of 2012.
Naturally, this is cause for alarm.
Look, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen “The Lorax” yet. The reviews — including the one from the Post’s Michael O’Sullivan — have not been raves, but they haven’t been terrible across the board, either.
Still, I am concerned that the success of the film will only lead to something that makes my heart ache a little: infinitely more adaptations of the beloved, smart and whimsical stories from perhaps the most revered children’s writer to ever walk the Earth.
My name is Jen Chaney. I certainly don’t speak for the trees. But I might speak for some who don’t want any more Dr. Seuss movies.
This whole business started back when “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was released in 2000 and sold tons of movie tickets even though, somehow, it actually made the Whos look scary and weird. And this was well before Taylor Momsen — who played Cindy Lou Who — entered her official Scary and Weird period.
Then there was the rock-bottom moment in Dr. Seuss movie adaptations, otherwise known as the 2003 release of “The Cat in the Hat.” A press screening of that affront to the feline in the red-and-white striped hat left me with one key question: After watching this hyper-energized debacle, should I gouge out my eyes with thing one, or thing two?
“Horton Hears a Who” was measurably better. And even the negative reviews of “The Lorax” have not overflowed with the same amount of bile that was directed at “The Cat in the Hat.” But honestly, do we really need to see a version of this Once-ler cautionary tale in which Zac Efron (voicing the nameless kid in the book who is now dubbed Ted in the movie) develops a crush on Taylor Swift?
Here’s the thing: Seuss’s stories have always worked better as television because the narratives translate nicely to half-hour blocks. Turn Ted Geissel’s extended rhyming couplets into a 90-minute-plus film and suddenly, plotlines must be invented to fill the time. This is why we now know far too much about the Grinch’s childhood psychological issues — again, courtesy of that Ron Howard flick — than we ever needed to.
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” the PBS series “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” or even “The Lorax” TV special — a program that I watched in elementary school every time it rained during recess — have all been wonderful, faithful-to-the-Seussian-spirit interpretations of the master’s work. The films, I fear, are becoming some bizarro world equivalent of the truffula trees that the Lorax so desperately wants to save. Instead of being toppled by a Once-ler with Thneeds and dollar signs in his eyes, the Seuss film adaptations keep sprouting up, like colorful, cash-generating creations that may be destroying a tiny but important part of the souls of future generations.
And at some point, someone has to cut them down. Otherwise, I fully expect to find myself in a theater in 2015, watching “Fox in Sox: The Movie,” featuring the voices of Owen Wilson as the Fox, Zach Galifianakis as Mr. Knox and Ken Jeong as Capt. Tweedle Beetle, organizer of the epic Tweedle Beetle Puddle Battle.