Dr. Seuss is an American icon with many of his books becoming classics in both book and film format. The Lorax is one of his more complex works with strong themes of environmentalism and conservation. There was an animated adaptation in 1972, making it ripe for the remake treatment. At times the updated version of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is just as sweet and loveable as the book, but when it focuses too much on the tween audience and moves away from the message of the book, it becomes a cute film lacking the heart of the original source material and not containing the quirk of something like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
In the town of Thneedville, a young boy named Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) wants to find a real tree to give to his love Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift). Unfortunately, the town of Thneedville is all plastic and contained in a bubble after mass pollution has ruined the world. After escaping the town Ted meets the Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms) who tells him the story of the Truffla Trees and The Lorax (voiced by Danny Devito), a tree guardian trying to save the Truffla trees from deforestation.
From the production team behind Despicable Me, The Lorax boils down to being a cute story of conservation. The images feel copied from the pages of Seuss’ book and the immense forests of Truffla trees during the Once-ler’s flashbacks are gorgeous. At times the movie feels like a living, breathing, book version come to life which of course is the intention! When the film focuses on the story of the Once-ler, his relationship with the Lorax, and the decimation of the Truffla trees the movie provides the same heart and whimsy as something like Wall-E or the aforementioned Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (although not nearly as quirky). The voice cast is generally good but Helms and Devito stand out as feel most representative of their characters. Devito is especially great as the Lorax and they did a great job of making the adult viewers see Devito through the Lorax’s animated face.
The audience is so engrossed in the story of the Truffla trees it’s hard to cut back to the stock story of Ted and his need to prove his love to Audrey. For starters, Efron and Swift’s overly eager voices sound fake. I never felt connected to their characters because it never felt like they were giving off a performance. It just felt like they were reading the script as it was presented to them. Their story is so bland and cutesy that it lessens the impact of a world without trees. The plastic town and the corrupt mayor felt directly ripped from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and every time we went back to that story I just felt like I should have been watching that; not a good thing when you’re trying to get audiences to watch your film.
The Lorax isn’t bad; it’s just not as great as I envisioned it to be. The book is a classic on par with The Giving Tree (when they make that into a movie I’ll weep). The movie entertains and has some beautiful animation, but the over-reliance on the young cast and the carbon-copy storyline involved with them was just boring. The film should have been specifically about the Once-ler and the Lorax…not them and boy trying to get girl. A beautiful, disjointed movie that makes you want to “speak for the trees.”