At the beginning of “The Lorax” I was charmed. The color scheme alone won be me over having given up lovely sunflower yellow curtains and an orange bathroom because my husband dislikes yellow and orange. Dr. Seuss was a childhood favorite, but the movie proceeded to mix in as many genres as possible, attempting to please all and reminding me of Jimmy Kimmel’s “Movie: The Movie.”
Dr. Seuss’s 1971 children’s book “The Lorax” was about the environment and the Lorax is a shaggy short orange fellow with a wonderfully bushy yellowish mustache who defends the trees. (He wasn’t hazard orange) The Once-ler means to cut down all the Truffula trees in order to make Theneeds, an all-purpose article of clothing. The Lorax attempts to stop him, but greed wins out, destroying the environment, forcing the bears, fish and birds to leave in search of a new home.
The Illumination Entertainment production which was released on what would have been the 108th birthday of Dr. Seuss (who died in 1991 at age 87) is in 3D (but not to much advantage).
Danny DeVito voices the Lorax who is seen in flashback as Once-Ler tells the story to the 12-year-old Ted (Zac Efron) who is searching for a tree to impress Audrey (Taylor Swift), an older girl in his neighborhood. The heavy here is no longer Once-Ler (Ed Helms) and his greed, but the mayor O’Hare (Rob Riggle) of the city where they all live–Thneed-Ville.
O’Hare runs Thneed-Ville using technology in a Big Brother sort of way, meaning more like the George Orwell book “Nineteen Eighty-Four” than the reality series. So we have the nightmarish future dystopia movie angle to which the big bad commercial enterprise (selling air since there are no trees to produce it) angle is slapped on.
O’Hare was a problematic character for many reasons.First, I couldn’t stop thinking of the Chicago airport. As a petite person, the short guy as evil didn’t work for me. With his black hair cut in a pageboy ‘do, he looked vaguely familiar. Did “The Incredibles” wonderful Edna Mode lose her brother? Edna didn’t have two oversized goons to follow her around.
The introduction of the love interest Audrey was wonderful if you don’t mind that this girl knew what trees looked like and painted them, but didn’t have the gumption to go out herself and find the Once-Ler and the Lorax? Wow. She wanted more than anything in the world to see a tree? What it really took was a 12-year-old boy who was in love and could take his bike-like contraption out of the city despite whatever curfew he might have.
A 12-year-old boy (who was named Ted after Theodor Seuss Geisel) has more courage and curiosity and gets to have some cool stunt bike riding adventures. It probably wouldn’t have done as well to have Audrey kicked and booted by the Once-Ler’s contraptions. She’d have to be a bit tougher and the dynamics of the Once-Ler as storyteller relationship would have changed (is there a reason for the marshmallow pushing here?).
The Once-Ler is almost disposed of by the Lorax, but this becomes a perils of Pauline with Once-Ler heading down the rapids, to…yes…a waterfall. With him is one of the woodland creatures. Shame on the Lorax who would have known better because as the woodland spirit and guardian you’d think he’d know where the stream was heading, right?
The Once-Ler’s idea isn’t an immediate hit, but when people come to realize what he has–something that can change a girl from nerdette to hot chick–the people track the Once-Ler down. To meet the demand, the Once-Ler summons his family who we first saw laughing at his dreams. Now they are all behind him with the women–his grasping mother and gluttonous aunt, leading the way to environmental nightmare.
Taking on big business and adding a romance wasn’t enough. There’s a car chase thrown in as well as an appeal to the crowd to do the right thing moment. Along the way, like every 20 minutes, we have a musical number. I love musicals, and most of the musical numbers work as do all the lovable, whimsical animals. I just wish more of the whimsical language had been carried over and at least our Lorax has spoken in rhyme.
I’m all for the environment, but there is sometimes too much muchness and “The Lorax” is definitely that. We already know that re-growing a forest takes time and the ending of this Lorax movie made the mistake of cutting down even the last Truffula tree less tragic and foolhardy.
The environmental message is still valid today as it was in 1971. At this date, it should go beyond trees. The plastic environment of Thneed-ville was like whimsical surburbia and one should remember that concept of suburbia is the lawns, the rigid landscaping and the odd choice of plants that might not be suited for the planting zone (tulips and lawns in the desert).
There was a 1972 TV special on CBS based on “The Lorax” with the voices of Eddie Albert and Bob Holt. This is truer to the book and less cluttered and available online free.