Dr. Suess’ The Lorax is an entertaining, musical, lively and colorful cinematic version of the Dr. Suess classic children’s book first published 1971. Focusing more on the young boy from the book, christened Ted for the film (after Theodor Suess Geisel/Dr. Suess), the film becomes a whimsical adventure where the character ventures out into the barren wilderness in search of a Truffala tree to impress a crush. With his grandmother’s tales as a guide, Ted leaves the walled-in safety of Thneed-Ville to search for the Once-ler in order to acquire the last Truffala seed. Before the Once-ler will give Ted the seed, he requires the boy to listen to his tale in three parts where the Once-ler’s greed bested him, costing the countryside its Truffala forest resulting in the city of Thneed-Ville to be run by O’Hare Industries where the highest commodity is fresh air.
The script pads Dr. Suess’ short children’s book presenting an inventive and colorful look at the world within Thneed-Ville. It also gives the Once-ler a face, a fully fleshed background and a shot at redemption. The Once-ler’s greed is supplanted further by the corporate greed displayed by Mr. O’Hare and his control over the very air all of Thneed-Ville consume. Even under the grip of O’Hare, Thneed-Ville is displayed as a relatively fun place to live. Everyone is safe; nothing is terribly broken. It is never exposed fully how hidden the residents of Thneed-Ville are to the barren outside world. They’re not even allow to leave – in fact, there is very little reason for them to want to leave. Oddly, this waters down the message of the story, shifting the focus of much of the movie from the ecological devastation to corporate greed. To kids, it will matter little; but, for adults, it could easily ruffle a feather or two – or, then again, maybe not. Even watered down, the message is still there and in a delightful, colorful, digestible, cute film.
Zac Efron is energetic as the voice of Ted. He provides the character with a charm and curiosity that suits the character and the story. Efron’s infectious tone and delivery makes it easy to root for Ted. He’s a little rebellious yet innocent and perhaps a bit older than his age. His affection for Audrey voiced by Taylor Swift comes across natural and adorable, which serves the story giving his actions an authentic course. No surprises here; he is crushing on Audrey and once she shows her love for the legendary Truffala trees, there is only one possible outcome. This keeps things simple and Efron keeps the vocal delivery light but determined.
Danny DeVito voices The Lorax. But it’s the design of the character that gives the Lorax life, not necessarily the acting provided by DeVito. The character feels a little too commercial and safe for the role’s purpose in the story – which is more than ironic. Even though he delivers the lines with comedic timing and a tinge of chaotic mayhem, DeVito brings very little character to the role. He never brings that something special – that added magic – that the title role should have. Visually, the Lorax is a joy with his hopelessly inadequate size and big, broad mustache.
Ed Helms rounds out the main cast as the Once-ler. Much like DeVito, he brings little magic to the role with his vocal talents. There’s nothing that hints to the charm he’s had in previous live action roles. Missing is the sense of sorrow, remorse, and hope the character has. It’s in the Once-ler’s actions and words, but it is not in the character’s heart. As good as Ed Helms is as both an actor and a comedian, he feels a bit miscast as the Once-ler. He fits the more buffoonish young Once-ler trying to impress his family and follow his miss-guided dreams far better then he does the mysterious, matured Once-ler of the present, hiding in his home in the middle of the barren Truffala forest.
Dr. Suess’ The Lorax is solid kid’s entertainment. It’s imaginative, full of creativity (in Thneed-Ville) and cute, cuddly, kid-friendly creatures in the flashbacks. It also makes the most of its mediocre musical numbers. While a bit pointless and forgettable, these number still manage to keep the tone lively and speed the story along. Colorful, delightful, with a subtle little message at its core, Dr. Suess’ The Lorax provides ample amounts of smiles and laughter. Kids will likely remember the Lorax, the cute bears, fish and birds, the Truffala trees and the admittedly cool automobiles and cycles of Thneed-Ville even if they quickly dispose of the heart of the story. Not as successful as Dr. Suess’ Horton Hears a Who!, but far better then other recent disasters at translating the stories of the adorned author, Dr. Suess’ The Lorax flourishes in the charm and splendor of the timeless child story and the world Dr. Suess created.