(Spoiler: I'm going to talk about the end of the movie. If you don't want to know until you watch it, then don't read on)
I’ll admit it, I was excited about the seeing The Lorax with my daughter. It was one of the books that I grew up with, and I was excited not only to share it with my daughter, but also to see it brought to life.
I was a little bit anxious about the overlaid plot. If you remember, the book is just the Once-ler telling his story. And so, the movie was given a bit more of a plot – the Once-ler’s re-telling was set within a larger story. But I thought it worked very well.
In fact, I was pretty impressed with the movie overall. The animation did a wonderful job of bringing the vivid world of Dr. Seuss to life. All the characters were great and very … um … Seuss-like. Ok, so the music left a little to be desired – but to be fair, I still have the great songs from The Muppets running through my head. Danny DeVito even sounded the way I had imagined the Lorax in my head.
Then came the ending. They gave The Lorax a happy ending! Do you remember the book? It ends in a tree-free world of smog, with the Once-ler figuring out what “Unless” means: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” And that is it.
But the movie ends with new trees growing, the Once-ler seeing the return of blue skies and the animals – and even the return of the Lorax. Everything all wrapped up, brought back together to a happy ending and a nice musical number. None of the uncomfortable challenge from the end of Dr. Seuss’ book.
Just as if someone had tacked a longer ending on the Mark’s Gospel, telling stories of the resurrection.
Mark’s Gospel ends just like Seuss’ book. There is the beginning of hope (an empty tomb, one last seed), but if the story is to have a happy ending it is up to the audience to make it happen. If trees are going to get planted, the reader of the Lorax will have to do it. If there is to be a witness to the resurrected Christ, the hearer of Mark’s Gospel will have to be that witness.
Dr. Seuss and Mark both leave us in the darkness, with just a glimmer of hope. They place that hope in our hands, and call on us to go back into the world and bring the light with us.
The truth is, though, that we would rather have a happy ending. We would rather hear that “They all lived happily ever after,” and not have to change our lives. We prefer stories that make us feel basically good about the world, rather than stories that challenge us to change ourselves and the world.
A good Lutheran, Theodore Geisel knew that the world is not all sunshine and happy endings. There is a task for each one of us, to bring the light of the resurrection into a world of smog and darkness.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
It is true about caring for trees and our environment. It also about caring for God’s children.
Top Illustration: From The Lorax, Universal Studios and Illumination, released in 2012. Image is property of the copyright holder; Fair use claimed for as image is used commentary & discussion of the work in question.
Bottom Illustration: From The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, Published by Random House, 1971. Image is property of the copyright holder; Fair use claimed for as image is used commentary & discussion of the work in question