With work as recognised and celebrated as writer Dr Seuss’, frequent screen adaptations were inevitable (tending to make a larger amount of their worldwide gross in America, where he’s most revered); unfortunately these usually blundered by making his eccentric material more orthodox and as a result, far less interesting. So we have The Lorax, which is good looking, amusing and decent; but again Seuss’ inventive writing has become another just decent film.
In a land where trees are extinct, Ted (Zac Efron) hopes to gain the affection of Audrey (Taylor Swift) by finding her a real tree. In order to do so, he’ll need to hear the reclusive Once-ler’s (Ed Helms) stories of the Lorax (Danny DeVito); a strange creature that was possibly once the “voice for the trees.”
On there own, Seuss’ books wouldn’t be long enough for a feature; so additional content will get thrown in. With Lorax, the new stuff isn’t terrible, however it can muddle the story’s pro-nature message. Ted only wants to find a tree so he can get with a girl (who wasn’t even in the book), and that’s what now drives the narrative forward. Also, Ted’s hometown “Thneed-Ville” gets some screentime, and it’s filled with newly created characters that are less engaging than the original ones. So the eponymous Lorax doesn’t seem to do that much and becomes less significant. Instead the film adds things like some fish doing the Mission: Impossible theme or Ted’s mother singing “The Hustle”. Lorax becomes less a fable about the environment, more a clash of old-fashioned whimsy versus modern style jokes and pop culture references. The difference in tone really glares throughout.
The quality of the animation is good from the beginning, and Lorax manages a few okay visual gags. In particular it’s the use of colour that really shines. As you’d expect, the colours are bright and strong, with contrasts effectively utilised. The difference between the luminous greens against darker purples leads to images that are impressive, absurd and, when compared to the other sections, less formulaic; whether it’s the last tree falling in a misty wasteland that’s become uninhabitable, or multicoloured trees and marshmallows raining down.
The Lorax is a fun but standard all-ages cartoon, it comes at you very hard with its environmental message, though the importance of which gets lost amongst the new and meh scenes, for example unexciting car chases. It is a fine film, it just doesn’t compare with the works of contemporaries like Pixar, or those of the author; works that went beyond fine. The Lorax book ended on an ambiguous yet still hopeful note that would stay with you, regrettably there’s no chance of that with the film’s conclusion.