Director: Chris Renaud & Kyle Balda
Writer: Ken Daurio (screenplay), Cinco Paul (screenplay) Dr. Seuss (book)
Cast: Danny Devito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle
To impress the girl of his dreams, a 12-year-old boy sets out on a quest to find the Onceler—the one who can help him find a real tree to fulfill the dreams of his crush.
The year’s first new major animated release—the only other animated film released so far being Beauty and the Beast 3D—is here with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. It’s been four years since we’ve last been treated to the imaginative world of Dr. Seuss—the last adaptation being was Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who. However, this film differs from Horton in that it was 20th Cenury Fox handling that film, whereas Universal, along with the new animation studio Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me), handles this film.
For those unaware or those who haven’t read the Dr. Seuss book The Lorax, the story focuses around a boy in a run down world who encounters the mysterious Onceler and is told of why the world is the way it is. A story of how the Once-ler, through an unrestrained and callous attitude towards the environment in favor of big business and industrialization, became rich by deforesting the truffula trees.
That’s where the film encounters its first problem with its feature length adaptation. Keep in mind that the Lorax is a children’s book, so stretching what would usually take 10 minutes to read into an hour and a half film is quite the task. A lot of alterations are made to extend this film. Most of the alterations aren’t bad, but one misstep the writers make is the slight perversion of the message of the original book through the relationship between the Lorax and the Once-ler. They attempt to give a more humane side to the Once-ler rather than letting his character play out like the book version. I understand it’s to give his character depth, but it does change up the overall message.
That’s where I’m left divided because I did enjoy how they changed up the relationship between the Once-ler and the Lorax. I did like what they do with both characters, but in the case of the Once-ler, it took away from his symbolism as a representation of industrial corporations. Despite that, I enjoyed both characters particularly because of who they got to voice them. I liked Danny Devito and Ed Helms in their roles and found them both fitting.
As I stated earlier, this is only the second film from the animation studio, Illumination Entertainment, which has only previously put out Despicable Me. That being the case, they still don’t boast the ability to put out animated films with budgets comparable to Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Nickelodeon or even Blue Sky Studios, as this film’s budget was only $1 million more than Despicable Me’s $69 million. Because of that, there are hiccups in the animation and characters/sequences that don’t look as clean as they should have been. However, it isn’t that obtrusive in the film.
The rest of the film is a completely original story involving the boy of the original children’s book. Here the writer’s devise a completely original world and characters not found in the children’s book, and for the most part it keeps in touch with the style and theme of the children’s book. The biggest highlight of it being the character of Mr. O’Hare voiced by comedian Rob Riggle. I found him hilarious and was a better representation of the attitudes of the Once-ler in the children’s book than the film version of the Once-ler.
It may sound like, through this entire review, I didn’t really enjoy the film, but I did. It’s still fun, bright and colourful with a some really good voice performances. Aside from Betty White and Danny Devito, I couldn’t tell who the rest of the voice cast was until the credits. I did feel like the character of Audrey—voiced by Taylor Swift—was a bit of a throw away character because she comes off completely as nothing more than a plot device. I also didn’t think the songs for the musical numbers were great, but I found the imagery used for them to be effective.
Even though The Lorax isn’t a great adaptation of the children’s book, it is still a fun movie to watch and people can still get some semblance of the original message from it.
GO Rating: 3/5