Movie Review: The Lorax
The Lorax (released March 2nd) is a delightful expanded version of Dr. Seuss`s 1971 environmental fable. It`s directed by Chris Renaud, who also helmed 2010`s Despicable Me, and this film shares some of DM`s off-beat humor and kid-friendly supporting characters. The story takes place in the Jetsons-esque town of Thneedville, a bright, colorful burg which boasts futuristic cars and happy inhabitants, but nothing natural. No trees, grass, or organic material exist there. The city is surrounded by a huge metal wall which protects citizens from the polluted outside world.
Young Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) decides that he must find a genuine Truffula tree in order to impress budding artist Audrey (Taylor Swift), the girl of his dreams. At first, it seems hopeless, as the Truffulas have been extinct for ages. But then his feisty grandmother (Betty White) clues him in about the Onceler (Ed Helms), who lives outside the wall and may hold the key to his dream.
The Onceler`s backstory is the heart of the film, as it is tied to the tale of Thneedville. In the Seuss book, he`s shadowy and mysterious, a pair of long arms attached to a face that one never sees. In this movie, he`s still tall and long-armed, but we learn a lot more about him. The Onceler starts out as a likeable neo-hippy who is idealistic about life and just wants to be good at something.
He travels to the idyllically beautiful valley of the Lorax and sets to work on his dream product, the “Thneed”, which is made from the soft leaves of the Truffula trees. But his plans are temporarily halted by the appearance of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), a bold walrus-like creature who “speaks for the trees.” The rest of the Onceler`s tale hinges on the conflict between his friendship with the Lorax (and the valley animals) and his desire to make money quickly.
As you can easily guess, he goes with the second option, and the industrial wasteland that this choice produces leads to the creatures leaving and the evantual creation of the Thneedville wall. It`s up to Ted and his fellow citizens to try to restore the area to its former natural beauty.
The movie handles the Onceler`s hard-earned lessons about the environment in a creative way, showing the effects of his actions rather than becoming preachy. Strangely, the film often feels like a much older one in terms of ideology. Despite its lavish use of CGI and bright color palette, it reminded me of thoughtful 70`s animation like The Point (1971) and various after-school specials.
The animation is gorgeous: especially well-done is the lush green land of the Lorax with its Truffula trees and bright orange Humming Fish. Although the movie is being shown in 3-D. you don`t really have to pay the extra cash: it`s a lovely sight in 2-D. The script is witty and fresh, though it only quotes from the source material a few times.
Danny DeVito does very well as the voice of the Lorax. He plays him as somewhat lighter in tone than he is in the book, but it works out: the comic aspects of the character balance the serious plot points. Helms seems perfect for the Onceler. He captures both his younger self`s enthusiasm and the regret-laden sighs of the adult. Also of note are Swift`s cute yet sweet Audrey and the great Betty White as Ted`s active grandma.
To sum it up. this is a Seuss adaptation that both entertains and educates. It`s always a joy to find an animated film which has a solid story behind the visuals, and The Lorax is such a film.
Review by Guest Blogger, T. Johnson
T. Johnson is a blogger, au pair, and part-time tutor who has been obsessed with science fiction and comics since roughly first grade. One of her life`s big revelations was discovering Wonder Woman comics-another milestone was starting to read the works of Heinlein and Aldous Huxley. She has always been convinced that girls can be as truly nerdy as any fanboy.