Film Review: The Lorax
From an animator’s perspective, it must be a dream to be awarded the chance to adapt a Dr. Seuss story for the silver screen. Theodor Seuss Geisel’s trademark imagery has become so iconic, and was so imaginative in the first place, that this generation’s 3D animators would be almost soulless not to get a certain kick out of the opportunity to revisit such legendary material.
If you’re going to ‘go to that place’ and make the instant comparison between Universal/Illumination’s The Lorax and 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky’s Horton Hears A Who then you would be entirely within your rights to do so. The two original Seuss stories are as greatly contrasted as their more recent cinematic counterparts. While there is always a driving message and motto to boot when it comes to Seuss’s colourful narratives, The Lorax was always one of the darker, more threatening tales. A cautionary yarn of the importance of environmentalism, it hardly evokes the charm of stories like ‘Horton’ and The Cat In The Hat. It almost feels as if, having captured the hearts of his young audience in his earlier works, Seuss used The Lorax as an opportunity to get kids asking questions of adults and have them (regardless of age) care about what happens to the world’s forests even if it’s only because they prefer colourful world full of Truffulas to a barren illustration in which The Lorax is wearing his frowny face.
While the original story was more Moomins than Muppets in terms of tone, the powers that be decided that The Lorax for this day and age should be a brighter, more musical Lorax, and rightfully so. If you’re making a kids film to highlight the effects of deforestation, the last thing you want to do is ‘keep it real’. If after watching The Lorax the young members of the audience want to know more, there’s always the option of An Inconvenient Truth, a film in which there is no colour…at all.
Directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda have done remarkably well to retain the overall themes of Seuss’ 1971 book, and through clever casting and strategically placed musical numbers have produced something that (for kids) will prove to be as thought-provoking as it is entertaining. While the message (to us grown-ups) is at times over-obvious, credit is due for for the placement of a number of mainly Ed Helms helmed jingles that do well to break up the ever present environmentalist message.
If you were at all turned off by the thought of a by-the-books animated feature led by Zac Efron and Taylor Swift, fear not. The Office’s Ed Helms’ voice talents drive the film from start to finish, and his constant exchanges with Danny DeVito’s Lorax provide more than enough screen time to make you forget that you hate Efron in the first place. To be fair to the heartthrob though, he doesn’t detract anything from the film, and if anything has a more than welcome future in the voice acting game. Swift is hit or miss, but she is a country and western singer after all. Once Rob Riggle is thrown in the mix, predictably doing the only thing he knows how to do (shouting Americanly) in a role that Seuss himself would roll his eyes at, the film evens out to be rather average in the second half. On the whole though, it is a largely entertaining, thoroughly cute and colourful (and memorably musical) adaptation of one of Seuss’ most intellectual pieces.