Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
It’s never easy striking the right balance, no matter what it is you’re doing. In cooking it’s very easy to add too much salt or not enough liquid to a dish and possibly ruin a meal. In personal matters, it’s easy to focus on one aspect of your life to the detriment of the rest of it. Even if what you obsess about is perfectly healthy and normal, it can still overwhelm you and make those around you feel shut out. This week’s movie, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” shows what happens when the desire to make money overwhelms the common sense to preserve the environment.
Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) lives with his mother and Grammy Norma (voiced by Jenny Slate and Betty White) and he’s in love from afar with Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift) who lives down the street. Ted makes up any excuse he can to see her, from throwing a ball into her fenced back yard to crashing a model plane there. While in her back yard, Audrey shows Ted a painting on her house of Truffula trees. Real trees, not the blow-up plastic ones everyone in their walled-in town of Thneedville has. Audrey wants one thing most of all and that’s to have a real Truffula tree. Ted becomes determined to find one for her. Grammy Norma tells Ted about the Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms) who knows all about the Truffula tree, but he lives outside of town. There are no obvious exits from Thneedville but Ted is determined and finds a way out. He enters the barren, polluted wasteland outside of town and begins his search for the reclusive Once-ler. At first reluctant, the Once-ler agrees to tell Ted about the forest of Truffula trees that once covered the land and how the Once-ler was responsible for their destruction, despite the warnings of the guardian of the forest, The Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito). The Once-ler’s story takes a couple of days to tell and Ted’s comings and goings from the city has attracted the attention of Thneedville mayor Mr. O’Hare (voiced by Rob Riggle) who has gotten rich selling purified bottled air to the residents and who doesn’t want to see the return of Truffula trees and all the free oxygen they produce.
One its surface, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is a brightly colored kid’s story about the dangers of greed and pollution. Underneath, its cautionary environmental tale is aimed not only at children but the parents who brought them to the theatre. Based on the 1971 book but greatly changed with many added characters, the film lays out the destruction of the environment with the aid of cute animals, 3D computer animation and catchy production numbers. While the moral of the story is laid out in a less than subtle fashion, it also isn’t so heavy handed as to interfere with your enjoyment of the comedy and music. The film even manages to have a surprisingly emotional punch at times.
The voice work by a cast filled with many household names is very good. It’s easy to forget that Zac Efron is 24 years old as he gives life to a character that may be half his age. Taylor Swift is surprisingly good as Audrey, giving her a livelier personality than one might expect from the country superstar based on her music videos. Danny DeVito’s gravelly voice as the Lorax works well even though I had a hard time separating his work here from his starring role on the less kid-friendly “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” Betty White is the grandmother we all wish we could have with her feistiness and help in finding out about what trees were all about. The movie’s bad guy, Mr. O’Hare, is played with over-the-top perfection by Rob Riggle. His ability to sound friendly while having an undertone of menace is perfectly suited for his character. The entire cast does a great job of adding depth and humanity to a children’s movie.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is one of the few 3D movies I’ve seen recently that actually puts the visual gimmick to good use. While there are times when objects from the screen seem to be whizzing at your head, the film also manages to add a more life-like depth to the fantastical landscapes. The city of Thneedville is filled with oddly shaped houses and wild looking autos that defy the laws of engineering and gravity. Despite this, the design of the film and the added dimension of 3D make the town perfectly normal looking after we are introduced to its many wonders.
The film doesn’t mind telling its tale of greed and excess with a cute singing animal, pratfall or lavish production number. These elements, along with some terrific and detailed computer animation, make the movie’s environmental moral much easier to take. Some on the Right side of the political spectrum have attacked the film as an effort to indoctrinate children with a “Green” story and to make them anti-business and industry. What is ignored is the segment of the film where industry and the environment all get along as long as there is balance and a sustainable level of resource use is maintained. It’s only when the desire for profit overwhelms good sense does the film wag a rhetorical finger at capitalism.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is rated PG for brief mild language.
The irony of the release of “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” being used to sell everything from cars to pancake specials at IHOP isn’t lost on me. It also hasn’t been lost on some cultural critics who have lambasted the movie for selling out the moral of the original story. Still, the young people touched by the destruction of a forest, the loss of wildlife, the polluting of the air and the desire by some to maintain the status quo in order to build their wealth and power may outweigh the boldfaced capitalism that comes with it.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” gets five guitars.
Classic sci-fi, horror and a comedy are headed to your local multiplex this week. Vote for the next movie I see and review.
John Carter—War-weary, former military captain John Carter is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet.
Silent House—Sarah is a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family's secluded lake house with no contact to the outside world, and no way out.
A Thousand Words—A fast-talking literary agent (Eddie Murphy) must speak wisely and sparingly when he’s cursed to die after he says another thousand words.
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews and movie currently in theatres.
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
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