Director: Chris Renaud
Cast: Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift
Running Time: 86 minutes
Release: 20 July
Adaptations of Dr. Seuss’ work have been cropping up with increased frequency as of late. This year marks the author’s 108th birthday, and with The Lorax, we can see that his message and themes have not lost their potency. If anything, they’re becoming increasingly more relevant. The film is an expansion of the original text and follows the story of Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron), a young boy who sets out to win the affection of the girl of his dreams (Taylor Swift), by finding a real tree. This runs contrary to all that his hometown, Thneed-Ville, stands for. It’s a synthetic and isolated city where everything is made of plastic, chrome, or electrics, and they’re walled in from the ecological disaster that lies outside. The young Ted journeys to meet the Once-ler (Ed Helms) to ask for guidance. As the Once-ler reveals how Thneed-Ville came to be and how all the trees came to perish, the story begins to take focus.
The titular character appeared when the first tree was cut by the Once-ler. As in the children’s book, the Lorax (Danny DeVito) speaks for the trees. The film’s strong environmental message is very much front and centre throughout. It’s refreshing to see, as most children’s movies of late don’t necessarily carry this—or indeed any—kind of altruistic message. However, the message does become diminished over the course of the film as it gives way to the usual mix of zany action and musical interludes that one expects from a children’s movie. The Lorax has its sights firmly set on the under eight market, and although it carries a message that older viewers may relate to, the delivery is intensely sugar-coated. Add to this the film’s apparent lack of licensing scruples—It’s been used in cross promotion with everything from nappies to an SUV—and The Lorax’s earnest message does begin to ring hollow.
Nevertheless, The Lorax is an entertaining kid’s movie and it’s good to see this kind of message being put forward. DeVito’s raspy tones and presence fit the title character perfectly. However, Efron and Swift’s roles feel superfluous—the film could have benefited from following the original text, instead of trying to crowbar in whole new protagonists. The supporting cast, made up of SNL regular Jenny Slate, Betty White and Rob Riggle, fill out their roles well—particularly Riggle as the villainous mayor of Thneed-Ville. Overall, The Lorax is an enjoyable film with a positive message.