March 2 is Dr. Seuss' birthday (he would have been 104) and also, not by coincidence, the release of "The Lorax" in theaters.
"The Lorax," which was published in 1971, is Seuss' environmental fable that inspires kids to think about nature (the lovely Truffula trees) versus material goods (those trendy but unnecessary Thneeds), and the movie does a good job of translating that theme into a charming animated movie kids will love. BUT then the studio's marketing geniuses have to muck up the story's message by making the Lorax shill everything from SUVs to IHOP specials.
Maybe we've all become desensitized to the consumerist nature of family films (I admit I had so many Happy Meal toys in my house I finally called a moratorium on McDonald's when I nearly broke an ankle tripping over a plastic Chipmunk), but there's something particularly off-putting about the Lorax shilling for so many products -- more than 70 according to the Associated Press. Sure, the Lorax is promoting "green" products, but it's still advertising all the same, and it's a particularly upsetting message to send kids.
In case you missed it, Stephen Colbert discussed the mind-boggling news of Universal's decision to sell out the Lorax on a recent episode of "The Colbert Report." He even employed Seussian rhyme to express his displeasure.
If you truly want to help your kids follow the example of young Ted (Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift) in the movie and help keep things green, talk about the environmental messages from "The Lorax" and act on them; don't just go out and buy a platter of green eggs and ham.
And after you see "The Lorax," check out these other environmentally friendly movies. They all provide ample opportunity to discuss why we should take care of the earth.
FOR LITTLE KIDS
"Happy Feet 2": Global warming and pollution affects the lives of a group of Emperor penguins who are stuck without food or shelter when an iceberg melts and washes their home away.
"Over the Hedge": Forest animals wake up from their annual hibernation to discover suburban sprawl has taken over their habitat. Plus, a scheming raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis) convinces them to forage for food in the housing development.
"Hoot": Based on a Carl Hiaasen novel, this live-action adventure follows three tweens who band together to stop a real estate developer from destroying a habitat for endangered owls.
"Wall-E": The message might be lost on the early-elementary school, but older kids should grasp the horror of what happens when we overindulge in buying more, more, more - until all that's left on earth is a garbage-compacting robot and his cockroach pal.
"An Inconvenient Truth" & "The Day After Tomorrow": This is the perfect double-feature for teens who want to learn about the dangers of global warming. First, expose them to Al Gore's award-winning documentary, and then let them see what could happen if we don't heed his warnings.
"Avatar": It's not just about awesome blue-skinned creatures! James Cameron's blockbuster 3D adventure explores some mature environmental themes about occupying an untouched ecosystem (in this case Pandora, where the Na'vi live in harmony with their surroundings) for corporate gain.