In the town of Thneedville, everything is artificial. From the cruddy manufactured food to the very world around them, there is nothing in Thneedville that isn’t mass-produced, pre-packaged, or otherwise created by man. Even the trees in Thneedville are fake, and that’s what troubles young Ted (Zac Efron). You see, he’s got a crush on the lovely Audrey (Taylor Swift), and all Audrey wants is to see a real, living tree. Not a plastic tree with disco lights, but an actual truffula tree.
There’s only one major problem with that. All the truffula trees have been chopped down. The one person who has a clue about the fate of the trees is the mysterious hermit-like Once-ler, who lives far outside of town. The Once-ler has quite a tale to tell, and it concerns a strange little orange creature called The Lorax (Danny DeVito), who speaks for the trees. At first, The Lorax and the Once-ler come to an agreement, but soon greed kicks in and the Lorax has no more trees to speak for.
Except for one. It’s up to Ted to protect the tree from the evil O’Hare (Rob Riggle) and redeem the Once-ler while simultaneously saving Thneedville in the process.
The one good thing you can say about The Lorax is that, while it’s very heavy-handed, it’s at least consistently heavy-handed in its execution. The message comes pretty heavily throughout the picture, but it’s spread out enough with catchy songs and some fun action sequences so that it’s not just one long sermon against capitalism and in favor of environmentalism. Still, the message is there, and it is obvious.
I don’t remember Dr. Seuss as being very subtle, so in that sense the story is pretty appropriate, and the script from Despicable Me scribes Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul works pretty well. The story itself isn’t great, but it works better than it should and was very cute.
Directors Chris Renaud (Despicable Me) and Kyle Balda keep the story of The Lorax moving, and the way they frame the movie with an opening from the Lorax itself is pretty good. It’s a story within a story (featuring a third story). However, it moves very quickly at only 86 minutes, and the two have constructed a beautifully Seussian world, using the power of 3D to provide depth and expand the scope of what could easily have been a two-dimensional world.
The movie looks like a Dr. Seuss book come to life, and that’s why it works. The little animal friends have a whole lot of charm, and Thneedville looks appropriately whimsical.
The voice cast is good. Danny DeVito makes a great Lorax, even if he doesn’t have a whole lot go do. Ed Helms is pretty brilliant, though. You have to give him credit for his expressive voice and his ability (and willingness) to sing. Strangely, Taylor Swift (a legitimate musical superstar) never sings a note. I’m not sure why that is; you’d think that they would want the Grammy-winner to sing, but I guess not. Rob Riggle and Betty White, while supporting players, are also very fun, especially White.
The Lorax might be a bit frustrating thanks to the omnipresence of its message moments and the way it never seems to stop harping on how saving the environment is good, but if you can look past that, you’ve got a fairly fun little movie. It’s not great, but as kid stuff goes it’s fun, has a good message that may end up falling on deaf ears with its intended audience, and it’s got a lot of adventure at its core.
The tough balance is keeping the kids entertained while still having a message of some sort, and The Lorax is a little too heavy on message and a little light on entertainment. Still, when it works, it works pretty well. It’s just a shame they couldn’t bring it all together consistently throughout the picture.
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