Dr Seuss’ “The Lorax” is a charming and unique animated movie. Patterned after the inimitable stylings of Dr Seuss, the visual world of the Lorax is beautiful to behold. Colorful, charming, idiosyncratic… it has a fresh and appealing creative vision to offer audiences.
The story within may be a little slow for today’s children, but it’s got charisma and humor to spare. At times it comes dangerously close to being preachy with its environmentalist, anti-capitalist messages… but overall it’s an entertaining family film that feels original and unique amongst the annual onslaught of animated offerings.
“The Lorax” revolves around a boy named Ted’s quest to find an actual, living tree, in order to impress the girl he’s smitten by. The two (voiced by Zak Efron and Taylor Swift) live in a town that boasts a completely artificial environment. Fake flowers, trees, grass, etc. Purified air is sold by the town’s tycoon. Everyone is happy. Even if it’s just because they don’t know what they’re missing.
When Ted begins to investigate the possibility of finding a tree to impress his girl, the boy has to sneak out of town and into the barren wastes in search of the reclusive “Once-ler” (Ed Helms). When he finds him, the Once-ler begins to share his tale, and via flashbacks we’re shown how the area – once a place flourishing with natural beauty – was stripped to the bone and became the inhospitable environs it is today. In his youth, the Once-ler was an inventor and entrepreneur, and he came upon this forrested area to harvest trees as materials for his goods.
Of course, he didn’t count on the Lorax.
The Lorax (Danny DeVito) is the diminutive, mustachioed creature of myth that appears when the tress are threatened. He warns the Once-ler about his current course of action, and threatens him with a curse. Of course, the Once-ler isn’t listening.
While the Once-ler tells his story via flashback, our hero has a present-day problem in his hometown of Thneed-Ville. You see, the town’s air tycoon, Mr O’Hare, has learned of his plans to plant a tree, and seeing as Trees make fresh air for free, he tries to foil Ted’s efforts by any means neccessary. These parallel plots tell “The Lorax”‘s environmentally friendly story. Via the flashbacks, the Lorax warns, threatens and tries to thwart the Once-ler, while in the current day, Ted tries to plant a tree in spite of the “Big Brother” power of the O’hare Air Co.
The message of the movie, though an admirable one certainly, does get delivered a tad heavy-handedly at times. Think sledgehammer to the head heavy-handed. I also found the musical elements (there are a handful of your standard animated movie musical numbers) to be… unispiring. Bland. There was also a moment or two where I wondered if the pacing of the movie was too slow for today’s kids.
Those are all minor nitpicks within my overall assessment, however. The film contains a vibrant, gorgeous, animated world. It’s very reminiscent of Seuss’ works – there’s nary a straight line in the entire movie. Said world is populated with oddly proportioned humans and strange creatures, singing fish and marshmallow loving bears. It’s a wonderfully imaginative movie with tons of humor, and a beating heart. Danny DeVito and Betty White both add a lot of fun via their voice work. And even though it’s not exactly delivered in a nuanced manner, the underlying message of environmental conservationism is an admirable one.
I think it’s a unique and memorable animated film. An enjoyable treat for families and children of all ages.