Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
Dr. Seuss’ "The Lorax" is arguably among the most somber and mature children’s books of all time. First published 40 years ago, its message of environmental destruction thanks to capitalism run amok was very much rooted in an era when the wider society placed a greater degree of concern on the fate of the planet. The 1972 DePatie-Freleng animated television version slightly softened the book’s harsh undercurrent, although it still managed to capture the severity of deforestation and its impact on the ecosystem.
Four decades later, our society seems more focused on being amused rather than trying to change the world. And this feature-length animated production waters down the original Dr. Seuss message with a flood of frenetic comedy and tween romance.
The essence of the Dr. Seuss’ text remains, barely. The reclusive Once-ler tells a young boy the story of how his plan to cut down the vast forest of truffula trees to manufacture sweater-like thneeds. The Lorax, an orange creature that served as a passionate representative for the trees, failed to halt the Once-ler’s plans, which resulted in a permanent deforestation and financial ruin for the Once-ler after the source material for his thneeds disappeared.
In this version, the boy is now saddled with a chaste romance with his pretty neighbor and the life-coaching assistance of his spry granny. There is also a new villain called Aloysius O’Hare, who sells fresh air in plastic containers. O’Hare goes to great lengths to stop the boy from planting the last remaining truffula tree seed. On the fringes of the action are the ursine Bar-ba-loots, the Humming-Fish and the Swomme-Swans - they were unhappy victims of the Once-ler’s actions in the original book, but now they mostly serve as annoying comedy relief.
Even if the viewer is able to adjust to the hideous animation (which looks even worse in 3D and which never comes close to the distinctively striking artwork of the Dr. Seuss original), it is impossible to overcome an uneven screenplay that is burdened by noisy and cutesy slapstick, with very light traces of ecological concern brushed about.
Danny DeVito voices the Lorax in a grumpy growl, as if he was still barking at the cabbies on "Taxi," while Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Betty White offer adequate voice performances as the boy, his would-be girlfriend and his grandmother. The soundtrack is further polluted by an icky score that makes an already-bad situation much worse.
Very young children may find this production amusingly distracting. But older children would be better served with the Dr. Seuss book.
"Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax"
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