The Lorax is an unsubtle eco-fable that features engaging characters, brilliant 3D and a world that looks suspiciously like that of Despicable Me [it’s from the same creative team]. It’s true to the spirit of Dr. Seuss and just plain spirited.
Ted [voiced by Zac Efron] really, really likes Audrey [Taylor Swift]. Audrey is fond of Ted but what she really wants is a tree – something that hasn’t been seen in ages. In order to find a tree for Audrey, Ted will have to leave the 100% plastic city of Thneedville and venture into the wastelands that lie outside.
In order to find a tree, Ted must visit The Once-ler [Ed Helms] in his home in the abovementioned wastelands. Unfortunately, before The Once-ler will help Ted find his tree, he must first listen to The Once-ler’s story.
It’s a tale of a young man with an invention – the Thneed. It has a million uses, but manufacturing it fast to fill demand means harvesting the red fluff from the tops of black & white striped trees – and the fastest way to do that is to chop them down.
The Lorax [Danny DeVito] is the small, fuzzy orange creature who tries to stop The Once-ler – to no avail – and the world outside of Thneadville becomes a dark and empty place [except when it rains – then it’s dark, empty and wet].
In Ted’s way is the mean Mr. O’Hare [Rob Riggle], who bottles and sells fresh air [O’Hare Air] to the people of Thneedville [with the loss of trees, the air is less than wonderful, so he has a large and varied clientele – the entire population of the city].
Directed by Despicable Me’s Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda from a script by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, The Lorax is greatly expanded and even then, barely fills an hour and a half.
Efron and Swift are thoroughly engaging as Ted and Audrey – though I heard someone wondering, ‘why, if you’ve got Taylor Swift in your movie, you don’t get her to sing something…’
The Ted/Audrey story is sweet, but may be too light a counterpoint to the tale of environmental collapse that provides the basis for the film. Ted’s mom [Jenny slate] and Grandma Norma [Betty White] are little more than bit players, which is considerably more than can be said of Audrey’s family. The Once-ler’s family are mean-spirited, abusive and exploitative and, once there’s no more money to be made, leave him in the lurch.
Still, The Lorax is definitely true to the spirit of the Seuss original and filled with some entertaining peripheral creatures – the Minion-like bears; the harmonizing fish, and more. While the film’s design is, understandably, reminiscent of Despicable Me, the nature scenes – pre-wasteland – are a riot of color and the 3D is brilliant.
The film moves well and enough of the humor works to keeps most audiences amused and the dark sequences are enough to unsettle but not terrify younger kids.
The Lorax is certainly one of the better attempts to adapt Dr. Seuss, but it feels like it might have been even more effective if it had been less cluttered – or at least had not weighed so ham-fistedly on the wastelands sequences.
Overall, though, it is smart enough and entertaining enough to warrant seeing in the theater, in 3D.
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Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures