Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
Directed by Chris Renaud
Voices by Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito
The Lorax: A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX is perhaps the most blatantly obvious attempt to speak down to people about the perils of industrialization on the environment since AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. Yes, I understand this is a children’s film, but the original work from 1971 was a brave warning of trouble to come, while director, Chris Renaud’s follow-up to DESPICABLE ME, is just a complete farce, unlikely to inspire any young people to care about the planet. Sadly, I don’t see it encouraging a lot of laughter and enjoyment in kids either. As is unfortunately too often the case, this is another Seuss adaptation that gets the imagination in the imagery right but doesn’t understand the roots of the story.
It didn’t take very long for me to stop enjoying THE LORAX. This stumpy, little orange thing (voiced by Danny DeVito), with a pretty well maintained mustache appears on screen to welcome us to the tale at the onset of the film. He’s certainly cute but the rhymes he drops sound somewhat watered down. And then before you know it, the entire thing turns into a giant musical number to introduce the good people of Thneedville that make up the story. It is awkward and uncomfortable to watch and while I’m sure Renaud imagined this opening as a grand and triumphant celebration of Dr. Seuss, it merely only serves to confirm that this will be a Seuss translation that doesn’t sustain its expansion into a feature length film. I’m no Seuss expert but I’m pretty sure he would never have used the phrase, “I know, right.”
Weak rhymes and unsuccessful modernization aside, THE LORAX is weighty and that is ultimately its undoing. Ted (Zac Efron) tries to impress a girl (Taylor Swift) by finding her a real tree in a world made entirely of plastic. In doing so, he meets The Once-ler (Ed Helms), who proceeds to tell him about how he chopped them all down long ago to pursue his own greedy needs. Let alone that the entire motivation of this story is about a girl and not really about the environment itself, the manner in which The Once-ler’s story’s is told is almost condemning. By the time he sings about how bad could he possibly be for pushing his own agenda at the expense of the planet, towering on screen and painted as this evil, destructive giant, I was done with it. It’s one thing to use media to scare adults into conforming but its a whole other level of wrong to use that same tactic on children. At least, the movie looks pretty.