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The Lorax Review

Forgoing the urge to write this entire review in Dr. Seuss-esque rhyming prose (you can thank me later), I will simply say that at heart, The Lorax is true to the spirit of the children’s book by which this adaptation is inspired. However, one doesn’t have to carry a doctorate in anatomy to know that the heart only makes up a small portion of the body, and while important to keep things flowing, a brain is required to make it all work. It is in that more cerebral realm where The Lorax could use an education. The Lorax is by far my personal favorite of the Dr. Seuss canon, which comprises 46 wonderfully creative books (and over a dozen more crafted under other pen names) from 1937 all the way up to 1990. What makes The Lorax stand out among so many masterful works is its still poignant environmental message, the fact that it boasts a more structured narrative than his goofier books and simply exhibits some of the best examples of his trademark rhyming. Its relevant themes and more traditional storytelling configuration made it one of the most ripe for adaptation. At its core, The Lorax is (as I mentioned) a faithful adaptation, and while the source material is strong, there is simply just not that much to be faithful to. At only 45 pages, adapting this book is akin to stretching out a Saturday Night Live skit or basing a film on a board game or toy – ample padding must be provided. This comes in the way of a romance between two young residents of the fantastical Thneedville, Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift), the inclusion of some original songs and perfunctory “action scenes.” The majority of The Lorax comes in flashback as Ted ventures to visit The Once-ler (Ed Helms) and find the truth behind the now-extinct Truffula trees to impress his young lady love.  It is the quantity of musical numbers, such as “How Bad Can I Be?”, that I was not expecting. Although chipper, they add nothing but running time – just like the extra dimension which only serves to desaturate the vibrant animation. This is the third product from upstart production company Illumination Entertainment after Despicable Me and Hop, and only its second in 3D. I can’t speak to the quality of the gimmick in the former as I was able to catch a screening in regular format, but the studio is clearly doing nothing revolutionary after what I’ve seen from The Lorax. Onto The Lorax himself (itself?) as voiced by Danny DeVito. The character scores the most laughs and DeVito does solid work, easily making us forget (despite their similar stature) that it is a recognizable celebrity behind the orange. My personal peeve is his natural voice, which is not anything close to how I would picture the creature talking. Words leant by someone less gruff and ornery-sounding (closer to a Hugh Laurie or George Clooney or hell I’m sure Hank Azaria could pull off something great) would have been a more preferred contributor, but to each his own. With the exception of Helms, all of the casting choices are odd. You have a past-his-prime actor (sorry Danny) in the lead and two 20-something pop icons added to the mix. One could guess their singing abilities had something to do with the choice, but neither lends his or her pipes to any of the songs. The questionable casting of Efron and Swift with aside, they do give solid performances and certainly don’t call attention to their starpower. I find them much more distracting in live-action fare (Swift especially) than I did in The Lorax. Hoping for so much with this version of The Lorax, I can’t help but be disappointed, if not generally pleased by the disposable entertainment on display, however disjointed. Most of all, I’m hugely thankful it was not an utter blunder, but thinking down the road, it makes me wonder. If a darker, more mature treatment of this Seussian fable could come into the mix, one that would stand the test of time, like How the Grinch Stole Christmas from ‘66. One thing I can say (whether or not such will ever be planned) we can be thankful we don’t have another debacle like The Cat in the Hat on our hands. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  


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