Directed by: Chris Renaud (Despicable Me), Kyle Balda
Starring: (Voices of) Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle
Probably the most memorable thing about Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is the new 3D Universal logo (unfortunately, with the same old tired music). I had really hoped to be more on the side of this film ever since it managed to apoplexiate Fox News’ Lou Dobbs for being a piece of “liberal agenda” pro-environment, anti-corporate-greed propaganda aimed at brainwashing the minds of the young. Of course, in a way that’s what it is, and what it’s been since the book was published 41 years ago. Naturally, it’s been dusted off, padded to attain feature length, decked out with some generally annoying musical numbers, and—in a move of presumably unconscious irony—partnered in its pro-environemental message with a Mazda SUV tie-in. This, I believe, is known as having your agenda and selling out, too.
The movie itself isn’t so much bad as it’s simply in obnoxious overkill mode, with its bright candy colors, constantly loud dialogue, frenetic action, agressive cheerfulness—and those musical numbers. (At least the Polyphonic Spree song on the trailers was not in the film, though some of these songs attempt to be more uplifting than a Playtex bra.) The padding is often reasonable, I guess, like the whole business of giving Ted (Zac Efron) a girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift) to impress as motivation for finding out what the story with the trees is.
The essence of the book is kept intact with Ted venturing out into the denuded countryside to learn what became of the trees, finally getting that story from a reclusive creature called the Once-Ler (Ed Helms). It turns out that the Once-Ler himself is the cause of it all, having chopped down all the Truffula trees in order to quickly harvest their foliage and make his phenomenally popular thneeds (a shapeless garment that can become just about anything)—and all this despite the warning of a strange little creature called the Lorax (Danny DeVito), who “speaks for the trees.” Of course, the Once-Ler’s greed destroys the land, forces all the animals to go look for greener pastures—or indeed any pastures at all—leaving the Once-Ler to live alone with his guilt—and the single remaining Truffula seed.
Since this isn’t enough for a feature-length movie, the film invents a secondary villain, Mr. O’Hare (TV actor Rob Riggle), who has created the totally concrete and plastic town of Thneedville, and who doesn’t want any real trees, because he makes his money by selling oxygen to the populace. Does the character really add anything to the story? No, but his efforts to stop Ted from learning the truth and then keeping him from planting the Truffula seed drag the story out to a reasonable 90-minute length.
Overall, it’s bright and colorful (maybe too much so). The 3D is nicely—if unspectacularly—used. One song, “How Bad Can I Be?,” about the willful ignorance of the Once-Ler’s greed, is actually fairly clever and wittily presented. It’s ultimately one of those ho-hum affairs that I didn’t mind seeing, but cannot imagine ever watching a second time without pretty strong protest. As general entertainment, I can think of no reason why anyone who doesn’t have small children—or isn’t a movie critic—would have the least interest in seeing it. Rated PG for mild brief language.