Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…

Once-ler Goes to Hollywood


Why is that these two statement evoke such different reactions?

I hear they are making a movie of  The Lord of the Rings.

I hear they are making a movie of The Lorax.

Those of us who are fans of JRR Tolkien were positively thrilled when we heard the fantastic news all those years ago.

They are making a movie of the ring trilogy and it’s gonna be bloody marvellous!

No doubt Harry Potter fans had a similar reaction so why is that, when I hear that they are making a movie of my favourite Dr Seuss story, my reaction is:

They are making a movie of The Lorax and it’s gonna be shit!


I have a special connection to The Lorax. When the biggest small clown was much smaller, we had a huge pile of Dr Seuss books and we read them over and over. Our favourite was The Lorax and we read it so often that I ended up knowing it by heart (and can still recite big chunks of it).

One time, we went on a family trip somewhere far away like Yosemite or Lake Tahoe and the little clown was bored with the journey home. He couldn’t have been more than two years old and to soothe his restless spirit, I started reciting the Lorax while I drove.

Big Clown: At the far end of town where the grickle-grass…
Little Clown: GROWS!

Little clown joined in and completed each line for me.

Big Clown: And the wind smells slow and sour when it…
Little Clown: BLOWS!
Big Clown: And and no birds sing excepting old…
Little Clown: CROWS!
Big Clown: Is the Street of the Lifted…
Little Clown: Lorlax!

Naturally, I thought my child was a genius when we made it through the whole book without missing a line. We especially enjoyed the little drama of saying goodbye to the brown barbaloots and the poor swamee-sans when they left and we had to say our tearful goodbyes.

Dr Seuss wrote a number of books that are just astounding for the simple clarity of their message.

If we are not good stewards of the natural world, we will destroy it.

Star. No star. No difference.

Try it. You might like it.

Life’s gonna be excellent. But sometimes it won’t be. You’ll need to keep on striving anyway to reach the good bits.

Little clown is almost big enough now to hear that last message one last time before he, like the barbaloots, says his goodbyes. I hope he pays as much attention to Oh, the Places You’ll Go! as he paid to The Lorax.

The movie version of The Lorax came out this week. I am determined not to see it because it will certainly, like every other adaptation of a Dr Seuss book, be shit. The littlest clown wants to see it though, so I read today’s review in the New York Times (possible paywall?) to see if it has any redeeming features. Nope.

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.” Those words are a permanent part of the literary heritage, and no movie can change that. And when the Lorax is around, warily befriending the ambitious Once-ler, you can almost believe you are in the Seussian universe. The parable of an ambitious entrepreneur who lets his ingenuity curdle into unchecked greed is more or less intact, and his corruption is conveyed in a few memorable, semi-inspired visual flights. But these only emphasize the hectic, willful mediocrity that characterizes the rest of the movie, and far too many of its kind.

In the film as in the book, the Once-ler ravages the landscape and destroys the Truffula trees to manufacture thneeds, knitted garments that have multiple uses but no real utility. Demand for them is insatiable for a while, and then, once the trees are gone, the thneeds are forgotten, partly because nobody really needed them in the first place.

The reviewer conveys exactly why Hollywood is unable to tell simple stories and – bonus! – even answers the riddle of how we knew in advance that the movie will be shit.

There is an obvious metaphor here, but the movie is blind to it, and to everything else that is interesting or true in the story it tries to tell.

I hear they are making a movie of The Hobbit! It’s gonna be bloody marvellous!