Review of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax


Movie Review: "Dr Seuss' The Lorax" --

Rating: PG
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: March 2, 2012
Directed by: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Genre: Comedy, Family, and Animation
Rating: 3 out of 5

Writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul ("Despicable Me") have crafted a faithful adaption of the 1971 Dr. Seuss classic environmental children's book. The film itself is full of vibrant color and fantastical characters, true to the imaginative style of Dr. Suess' illustrations. What starts out as a boy's desire to impress a girl ends up becoming a story about standing up for your beliefs and believing in hope when all seems lost.

In Thneedville, life is fairly convenient-and as the town's welcome sign proclaims-the town is made of plastic. People living in the community do not care that there isn't a single plant or wild animal anywhere to be seen. But not everyone is happy with this fake picture. Ted (Zac Efron) is a young resident of the town, and he's in love. He learns that Audrey's (Taylor Swift) greatest wish is to see an actual tree. So Ted, in his quest for young love, seeks information about trees. Only Grammy Norma (Betty White) knows anything concrete about them, and she explains Ted must visit the hermit known as the Once-ler (Ed Helms), outside the town, to find out more.

The contrast for the surroundings outside of tells why no one leaves town-ever. It's dark, gloomy and foreboding. Why be curious and explore when home is so much more colorful and offers no risks? This is the reasoning given to Ted by the lone villain in the film-the owner of a canned air factory, O'Hare (Rob Riggle). The businessman seems set on making sure that no one discovers the truth: that trees make oxygen.

The Once-ler lives in this desolate landscape, and he tells Ted how things became so terrible. In a flashback, the audience is shown how an ambitious young man turns a good idea and product into an environment-scarring nightmare. The Once-ler discovered that the trees produced the needed materials for a hot-selling product that everyone thought they needed-thneeds.

Before he set out to chop down a tree, the orange-hued Lorax (Danny DeVito) appeared and stated bluntly, "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees." He warned the budding businessman about unchecked destruction. But, progress outstripped good resource stewardship, and before long, all the trees were gone. Strangely enough, the thneeds that everyone thought they could not live without were soon forgotten. In today's slang, these might be called widgets, and they would be offered as part of some $19.99 "as seen on T.V." commercial. They look like the fleecy Snuggie blankets.

The soundtrack is very pop in style, and pop music is one of the largest pillars of mass consumer culture. It feels very clunky and inauthentic to the nature of the underlying story. Although there is some charm and fun when the animals sing and make jokes in the flashback scenes. The absence of Suess-style narrative dialog is very apparent, and it detracts from the charm. Although Ted and Audrey do have a scene where she reads a line of verse about the mystical truffula trees, they laugh at how silly it is. Anyone who has read the book will miss part of what makes Suess stories so special. The film has a highly frantic pace as if the intended younger audience could not stand a few inactive minutes.

This move is full of life and makes viewers consider how far they'd go to save what they love. Environmentalists have long loved this story's lessons about the balance of nature and what happens when the effects of mass consumerism run rampant. Some may feel that the Lorax's admonishments may come off as slightly preachy, but this tone is intended and appropriate for the unyielding characters in the town. For those who seek an authentic life, this tale will resonant in the mind and heart. People that still dream will feel an empowering inspiration to seek something better-even if others try to stop them.

The Lorax's comment about the last tree seed has an excellent philosophical meaning-"It's not about what it is. It's about what it can become." Ted seems off-put by the small size of the seed. However, it had been demonstrated that small ideas become larger ones. The ending seems like it was inspired from "Wall-E," but there is a small amount of unique Suess morality sprinkled on the top.