REVIEW: "The Lorax" Stays True To Dr. Seuss
After the over-the-top opening that introduces audiences to the completely plastic city of Thneed-Ville, we are introduced to an idealistic young boy named Ted (Zac Efron), who is eager to find a real tree in order to impress his crush Audrey (Taylor Swift). Ted’s grandmother (Betty White) leads him to find the Once-ler (Ed Helms), the only person who knows the true story of what happened to all the native truffula trees that used to surround the area before they were replaced by a contaminated wasteland. Determined to find a truffula tree for Audrey, Ted escapes the enclosed city to listen to the reclusive Once-ler tell his story, even after the town’s mayor, Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle) pressures him to stop his search.
Over these repeated visits to hear the story of the trees, the audience is brought back in time to when the Once-ler first met the Lorax (Danny DeVito), the guardian of the land of truffula trees. An aspiring businessman, the Once-ler attempts to make a profit by selling thneeds, a stretchy piece of clothing made from the tufts of the colorful truffula trees. Disproving of any trees being chopped down, the Lorax makes the Once-ler promise to not chop down any trees but the Once-ler becomes overwhelmed by his financial success and eventually breaks his promise.
He eventually is overcome by greed and excess and soon the land becomes the barren wasteland that Ted currently lives in; an obvious warning against industrialization and greed that is resonant today with global warming being a social and political issue.
This tale of a boy hearing the story of the Once-ler and the Lorax is enhanced by the exact exuberant color palette that Geisel used to create the gorgeous landscape where the Lorax resides. The scenery is a visual delight for viewers, children and adults alike, who are swept up in a world with lush greenery and adorable and charming wildlife one does not see anymore. The picturesque visuals and the star-studded cast of voice actors create a satisfying package that is sure to warm the hearts of the audience worldwide as the box office proved this weekend.
With this solid voice cast, Ed Helms as the Once-ler and Danny DeVito as the Lorax managed to stand out in their fantastic voice-acting roles. According to Paul and Daurio who visited USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for a screening and Q&A session afterwards, Helms provided his own singing and guitar-playing which is impressive considering the most memorable song from the film is the Once-ler singing “How Bad Can I Be?” Danny DeVito’s Lorax is a lot to handle with his bossy attitude and snappy dialogue but when given in small doses between scenes, DeVito shines; I cannot imagine anyone else besides DeVito voicing this character.
Other solid performances were by Rob Riggle who voiced the evil mayor O’Hare, Zac Efron convincingly portraying the youthful wonder of Ted, and even Taylor Swift as Aubrey (here improving upon her last panned role in “Valentine’s Day”). One would think that a film with stars Zac Efron and Taylor Swift would at least have a musical number with their two characters singing together, but according to Paul and Daurio, they didn’t want to make the film into a musical and distract from heart of the film.
As one of the most beloved writers of all-time, it is understandable that an adaptation of Theodor Seuss Geisel will have some critics up in arms. Paul and Daurio expanded upon the source material of 45 pages much to the chagrin of noted movie critics who disproved of the addition of zany characters common in today’s children’s movies that have altered the tone of the material to a more uplifting place. Paul and Daurio were handpicked by Audrey Geisel (the widow of Theodor Seuss Geisel) to adapt “The Lorax” and I believe they stayed true to the material, working in several plot points in order to create a flowing storyline and a complete movie.
Once again, the writing team behind “Despicable Me” has delivered a satisfying film that everyone in the family can enjoy. It takes audiences on a fun and colorful journey, but is still full of heart and meaning that leaves one with Geisel’s warning about the plight of the Earth. Although offering nothing new to chew on, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” effectively and respectfully delivers Geisel’s message through the world of Seuss.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” opened in theaters March 2, 2012.
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