Dr. Seuss' The Lorax Directed by: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda Cast: (voices of) Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, Betty White Running Time: 1 hr 34 mins Rating: PG Release Date: March 2, 2012
PLOT: A boy (Efron) wants a girl (Swift). She wants a tree in a world where they don't exist. Now the boy must discover the story of the Lorax (DeVito) and the Once-ler (Helms).
WHO'S IT FOR? This is easy to please family entertainment. It's also a musical. There is a pro-environment, anti-economic message, but it's not as strong as it could have been.
EXPECTATIONS: This is a tough one. The excessive product-placement and "Sell, Sell, Sell" philosophy with The Lorax made me realize this wasn't The Lorax I grew up with. I was sad.
"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees." That sentence matters to me. The Lorax was one of my favorite books and I loved the odd, 1972 TV special. It's an easy sell to see why it appeals. It's telling kids they matter, and they can save the day. Plus it rhymes, that never hurts. For the most part, you have to leave those feelings in the parking lot of the movie theater. Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is a product that is being sold to you, and with that said, it's not bad.
Ted (Eforn) lives in the plastic world of Thneedville. Seriously, everything including the lawn and the trees is plastic. The singing and dancing kind of feels plastic too. He's in love with the neighbor girl Audrey (Swift), who somehow knows and cares about real trees. That's never explained, but we've got an entertaining movie to sell you so just turn off your brain and enjoy the pretty colors! And here's the thing, it's hard not to. Dr. Seuss has created lovely worlds, and this team of filmmakers bring The Lorax to life quite well. The curved world of Seuss looks great. The 3D enhances it nicely. I have no clue why they nearly abandoned the rhyming.
Luckily, Ted's grandmother (White) knows about the Once-ler, who lives outside of town, and the Once-ler knows about trees. Ted seeks him out and it's then flashback time. It all seems to take a very long time to set up the fact that the Once-ler is hurting the environment because he wants to start a business. The Lorax (a short, puffy, furry orange guy played by the short, puffy, hairy DeVito) explains that he speaks for the tress, and the Once-ler shouldn't cut them down. It doesn't feel heavy handed, but instead it feels like it's taking up time just like the action sequences and songs that seem to pop up out of nowhere.
"How Bad Can I Be?" sung by Ed Helms finally thrusts some meat on this movie's bone, and it's a little surprising. Everything was light up until this point. This song deals with economic boom killing the environment. It's obvious and in your face. It just feels like the film would rather you have fun with the song.
You are rarely sad or inspired by Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. The singing and dancing reminded me of "Jesus Christ Superstar" more than anything else. It's a beautiful world to look at. The animals are adorable, with the goldfish stealing the show for me. The Lorax doesn't do much except want the Once-ler to leave. The Once-ler is voiced by the sweet Ed Helms and doesn't have much of an edge until his song "How Bad Can I Be?" Everything involving Eforn and Swift feels like a different movie. It all adds up to being a product, and a decent one. It would be much more accurate to say, "Inspired by the idea of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax." It's hard to turn off "nostalgic fondness," but once you do you'll be entertained by the mindless fun of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10