THE LORAX Review

I am not as up on my Suessian knowledge as I probably should be. I haven't re-visited the books since elementary school and as for the film adaptations of Dr. Suess's works I haven't really been impressed by them except for the Ron Howard directed "Grinch Who Stole Christmas" which a good majority of people didn't favor. I didn't even bother with "The Cat in the Hat" though and have only seen "Horton Hears a Who" in passing on TV. There was something about "The Lorax" though, from the beginning that had me a little excited about seeing this version. I don't know if it was because it was coming from the guys who brought us the uniquely imaginative "Despicable Me" or that I can fondly remember watching the cartoon when I was little and therefore remember the story a little better than some of the other books. The final product though is somewhat of a glass half full kind of thing. It has some bright moments: the animation is gorgeous and literally pops off the screen, the voice cast is superb, and the unexpected musical numbers are catchy and make you want to look up the soundtrack. I can't even pinpoint the negative aspects of the film. It is generally hard for me to dislike animated films purely by the fact they are always so well-meaning. There is no difference here, but when the first five or so minutes indicated something refreshingly fun and carefree it seemed hard to consistently capture that tone and magic. "The Lorax" is an acceptable entry in the animation canon but it doesn't reach the levels of excellence I for some reason held out for it.

The Lorax (Danny DeVito) warns the Once-ler (Ed Helms)
of the consequences his actions will produce.
The main problem all the features made from Dr. Suess films have had is stretching his short story into feature length form. In order to do that here we have been given a bigger scope of the story that doesn't even include the title character. While this is somewhat jarring as most moviegoers are accustomed to sticking with one particular protagonist, we are instead here, given two. In the present time we have Ted (voice of Zac Efron) a young boy in love with the neighbor girl Audrey (voice of Taylor Swift). Audrey is a lover o nature in a world made completely of plastic. Thneedville is dominated by fake trees and concrete grass and is being controlled by a stubby little man named Mr. O'Hare (voiced by the wonderfully hilarious Rob Riggle) who sells air to make his millions. When Audrey mentions her desire for a real tree it sets our hero Ted on a quest to find his prize that will seal his relationship with his dream girl. With a little help from his Grammy Norma (a fun Betty White) who points him in the direction of the Once-ler who lives outside the safe haven of Thneedville. It is when Ted reaches the crabby ole Once-ler (the scene stealer that is Ed Helms) that we are served what are extended flashbacks disguised as the meat of the movie. Whn the Once-ler was young he left home with big aspirations of making his invention (the "Thneed") a huge success. When he wonders upon a beautiful valley of trees topped with what looks like different colored cotton candy he finds the perfect material to create his masterpiece. The only problem is that the little orange Lorax who is the voice of the trees steps in and stops him from destroying the home of all the creatures that inhabit the valley.

Mr. O'Hare (Rob Riggle) has no interest in trees as he
makes his money from selling clean air.
While the Lorax is our title character and is voiced by what is the most natural fit ever seen in animation, Mr. Danny DeVito, he is hardly at the center of the film, they even take away the fact he provides the heart of the story. That instead seems to be placed on the younger characters of Ted and Audrey to push on and change what has become a world that keeps covering up the problems that it is creating. The Lorax is a symbol that exists simply as a conscience for the Once-ler. I can only remember the book having a bit more of an ominous tone. That it was almost an epic of what used to be and what evil greed had brought to such a pure place. This theme is still exhibited in this film and it has no problem not being subtle about the eco-friendly message it is trying to get across, but it just doesn't come off as genuine as I remember it being. Maybe this is just a product of my more cynical mind now and choose to see this as a movie that preaches the bad ides of selfish, greedy people while in itself being one big advertisement for the merchandise that will be associated with the film. I hate to look at it that way, I would much rather be ignorant and feel like we are all fighting for a good cause with the Lorax and his cuddly friends in the colorful forests. Like I said, we get this kind of camaraderie in splashes of sing song and well executed action pieces that will certainly keep the kiddies entertained and singing along, but the disjointed narrative and lack of depth to this lead character made me slightly disappointed in what I held out hopes for.

Ted (Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift) marvel at the last
truffula tree seed.
In the end though, it only really matters a little that this didn't live up to my expectations for it because by the box office return alone it will go down as a success story and it has received more than a handful of positive reactions from families that are simply thankful any time there is a feature there kids can enjoy as well as them. I have no problem admitting I went to see this without the excuse of children and or younger siblings, nieces or nephews. I was generally intrigued by what the ad campaign offered, even if it was a little overbearing. The previews made the humor look cute while hiring an actor an older generation knew to trust with bringing the hilarious. Instead what we have here is a script that lacks the whimsical quality of Suess's original works and instead opts for being a modern, hip tale that will appeal to the masses. There is a repetitive quality about it that allows you to know where it is going and have that sense we have all seen this at some point before. While I have always stood by the fact that Ron Howard at least attempted to capture that unique style of a Suess drawing on film, director Chris Renaud plays it safe here and despite those flavorful breaks from reality that are the musical numbers we are in the end left with a feeling that what we've seen is nothing really special, but instead quite generic. Generic is a word that should hardly be used to describe a piece of Dr. Suess work.