When polar opposites attract: Thoughts on Green Eggs and Ham

(image courtesy Netflix)

Dr. Seuss aka Theodor Seuss Geisel was one of a kind.

A talented writer and artist, political cartoonist, poet and so much, Dr Seuss gifted us with many of the greatest and bestselling children’s books of all time, including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1954), The Cat in the Hat (1957), One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960), and of course, the near-legendary Green Eggs and Ham (1960).

While you could well argue that the justly feted author’s entire bibliography is equally well loved and cherished, the truth is there are certain books such as Green Eggs and Ham that has struck a chord with readers over many years, which explains why Netflix has seen fit to commission a 13-episodes series that uses the book as inspiration.

That last phrase is the key to understanding and appreciating the wacky, idiosyncratic, gloriously quirky and wildly colourful animated masterpiece that is Green Eggs and Ham, executive produced by among others, Ellen DeGeneres, which takes the spirited cadences and vivacious whimsy of the book and runs and flies and cold balloons and trains with it to places that are most definitely anywhere but here.

People are notoriously proprietorial about books they love, especially as children, but just like one of the characters in this exquisitely well-crafted adaptation of the book, you need to trust and let go and subsume yourself into the kinetic wonder that is the rainbow magic of Green Eggs and Ham.

It takes the very spirit of the book, which is all about opening yourself up to new experiences, friendship and love, and builds up on it in ways so deliciously and fabulously out there that you will, if you have any child like soul left in you at all, be clapping your hands in demented delight every bit as often, and it will be often, as you laughing with the kind of gusto you thought long left behind in the playground.

Green Eggs and Ham, which takes us on a grand and suitably epic adventure from the town of Glurfsburg, where all the main characters meet and is the way with these things, don’t necessarily all get along to the gleaming skyscraper wonders of the capital Meepville, by way of South Shvizelton (trust me, you don’t want to go to North Shivizelton), the once beautiful, now ruined diner of Prinz Pazookle and the emotionally resonant (well, for one character in particular) environs of Stovepipe Junction.

It’s brilliantly Planes, Trains and Automobiles in scope and spirit, as the odd couple at the centre of it all, Sam I Am (voiced to utter comedic perfection by Adam DeVine) and Guy Am I (the unnamed character in the book now has one) set off to return a Chickeraffe (a very Seuss-ian mix of chicken and giraffe with a penchant for men’s neckties as food) to his home from where he was abducted many years before.

In much the same way that Kevin (Pete Docter) becomes an endearing character in Pixar’s beloved UP (2009), so does the Chickeraffe come to be a part of the unlikely family that grows, at least against Guy Am I’s initial wishes, around this most hilariously heartwarming, and it seems at times, quixotic of quests.

The emotional centre of the film is very much the friendship that forms between the garrulous, endlessly positive Sam who is enamoured with green eggs and ham to an almost inexplicable degree (his fulsome devotion is explained, quite touchingly, at one point in the series) and the cranky, disillusioned Guy who has given up on inventing (his creations keep exploding) and any hope he once had of doing remarkable with his life.

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

He has decided, quite literally, to take up a career watching paint dry, eating his “Sad Man Special” of oats when Sam, eager for a friend, any friend, barrels into his life and enthusiastically refuses to leave, any opposition put up by his unwilling new best friend overcome with a mix of fizzy brio, witty observations and oneliners and quips so many it’s hard for Guy to get a word in.

Theirs is a friendship for the ages, although Guy doesn’t know or appreciate it just yet, and much of the joy of watching Green Eggs and Ham comes from watching these two very different characters interact and eventually become the BFFs Sam was always convinced, CONVINCED I tell you, they could be.

Adding to the mix is over protective beancounter Michellee (Diane Keaton) – her job is to count beans, one of the many amusing literal job occupations such as “number cruncher” and “pencil pusher” that fill the corporate world of Green Eggs and Ham which is overseen by the avaricious Snerz (Eddie Izzard) who wants the Chickeraffe for his definitely RSPCA non-approved rare animal collection – and her daredevil, rule-breaking, kindhearted 10-year-old daughter E. B. (Ilana Glazer) who goes with her mother to a big corporate shindig in Meepville where she expects nothing much of anything to happen.

How wrong she is; in fact, how wrong is everyone.

In a gloriously loopy and magnificently over-the-top adventure that tips its hat to a number of Seuss-ian creations including the fish from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990), during which Sam, Guy, Michelee and E.B. and of course the cute-as-a-button Chickeraffe are pursued by a number of baddies including the BAD GUYS (McWinkle (Jeffrey Wright) and his off-the-charts nutty assistant Gluntz (Jillian Bell) who gives Sam a run for his extrovert Bruckles) and a seriously malcontented goat known as, yup, Goat (John Turturro), our unexpected family goes on a transformative journey of the body and the heart.

This is what gives Green Eggs and Ham, which incorporates much of the book’s lyrical poetry (all of which provide key narrative cues) including in its actin-packed climactic scene, so much appeal; wacky and silly and loopy it maybe, rife with hilarious word and visual plays that will have you hitting Netflix’s 10-second rewind icon like nobody’s business, but it also packs an emotional wallop with a back stories for each character that will break and mend you heart, intensely dramatic scenes that will touch you in places you never knew existed in your heart and a palpable sense of real, three-dimensional characters doing stuff that really comes to matter to them.

All this emotional resonances sit damn near perfectly with a visual style that is gloriously colourful and mischievously original and which stays happily close to the style of Dr Seuss throughout.

It is, in so many ways, a visual feast for the eyes, with every city, town and toxic-sludge filled rubbish dump lit up in crayon-pretty colours and aglow with the luminously lovely, eye-catchingly appealing creatures that populate all of Seuss’s books to a manically pleasing degree.

There is honestly no way to truly do justice to how richly intelligent and immersively wonderful everything about Green Eggs and Ham is – from the sparkling narrative to the perfectly-wrought characters through to the visual world building that is so sublimely beautiful that you wish you could dive in and live in it, this is the dreamiest of dreamy Dr Seuss adaptations, one that hands us a meaningful, heartfelt story while dazzling us with lush visuals and gracing us with a winsome, poetically-inclined narrator, loveable characters and a sense of the ridiculous that together delivers what can only be described as one of the best televisual treats of the year that will leave grinning from ear-to-ear and wondering how on earth you get to East Flubria …

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