Yesterday, I heard two NPR reviews and read a Tulsa World review of The Lorax. It’s not looking good. From what I gather from all three reviews, the filmmaker over-complicated the story and gave it an overall depressing and downright grouchy atmosphere. Ah,Hollywood. It can’t ever get Dr. Seuss right.
Dr. Seuss was a great poet of nonsense verse. His rhymes might seem simple, but the oddness of the material made them classics. Who would have thought a book about green eggs and ham could have so many layers to it? There really is a lot to consider about the different places you would not eat green eggs and ham—on a boat, with a goat, with a fox, in a box . . . each choice is riddled with . . . more choices.
Poetry is rarely translatable to film. The short animated films of Dr. Seuss’s stories work well, but that’s because they are basically just scene by scene interpretations of the books. The thirty-minute Cat in the Hat is great fun, but hard to find. The original Grinch is, of course, a classic.
Dr. Seuss’s stories are narrative poems—designed to both tell a story and evoke an emotion. When modern filmmakers get a hold of him, they focus on the story and forget the other purpose, the one that all lyric poetry aims toward.
Wordsworth said that poetry was emotion recollected in tranquility. It may seem like an odd definition for the things that Seuss wrote, but I think it suits him fine. He remembered what it was like to be a child hooked on silliness and fantastical ideas and the possibilities in the preposterous—poetic ideas which films rarely capture.