94 min., dir. by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, with Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, and Danny DeVito
For some reason, The Lorax is harder for me to locate in my memory bank than other Dr. Seuss works. Through some deep searching though, bits and pieces did come back to me. Contrary to what early trailers led me to believe, The Lorax sticks to the original story’s theme of saving nature. Unfortunately, the whole experience is more akin to being strapped into a chair Clockwork Orange-style while you’re forced to watch paint dry.
The citizens of Thneedville live in a domed world where nature doesn’t exist. Grass, trees, clouds, the sun, even the air — they’re all manufactured. Everyone is happy, though — they have everything they need and love their no-nature lifestyle. Young Audrey (Taylor Swift), however, dreams of seeing a real tree, and Audrey has a not-so-secret admirer, Ted (Zac Efron). Knowing Audrey would be forever in love with him if he found her a tree, Ted sets out to find the Once-ler (Ed Helms), the only person who knows what happened to all the trees. Once out in the dismal wasteland outside of Thneedville, Ted finds his man, and sits to listen to the story of how all the trees disappeared and how he can bring them back.
The titular character of the Lorax (Danny DeVito) is the voice of the forest who the Once-ler had dealings with when all the trees started falling. In an attempt to stretch out the original story, the script was built as a love story that helps bookend the real story. It works well enough, but reduces the Lorax to the role of a secondary character. It’s funny how I can’t situate the Lorax character into my summation of the film without giving anything away (not that the movie has tons of deep twists to ruin).
Another ploy to beef up the running time to 90 minutes is the addition of multiple cringe-inducing musical numbers. The opening number where the inhabitants of Thneedville boisterously sing about how they love plastic goodies works well, but everything after is just a bad, forced attempt to plug in another tune, which happens numerous times in the flick.
All that having been noted, I’m not a kid. The young audience members seemed pleased with the fuzzy animals doing silly things, so maybe it will work for its target audience. For attending adults, however, strap in for 90 minutes of stone-faced disbelief. The odd thing is, I was waiting for the filmmakers to interject heaps of un-Seuss like material (such as the “That’s a woman?” joke from the previews) to keep uninterested parties awake. The fact that they didn’t do that is commendable. What they did put into the script, though, creates an arduous battle for someone attempting to care in the least.
The animals are cute, but the overall Earth Day-ish environmental message is too heavy-handed. I’m all for saving the Earth, but this film takes the story’s original sentiment and then hammers it into the audience like it’s gospel. “Subtlety” is a word The Lorax doesn’t understand, and for that, the viewing parties for this film will be glad they are free to leave when they wish.