The Lorax is the fourth feature-length film based on the work of Dr. Seuss, and the second film to be animated. First, I will say that animation lends itself to the designs of Seuss much better than live action does, and the overall aesthetic of The Lorax presents the audience with the author’s trademark otherworldliness. However, I was most concerned with the integrity of the book’s environmental message getting lost amidst Zac Efron’s voice and the spectacle of 3D. While the film does not offer as bleak (and therefore, not as poignant?) of an ending as the book, I think it will still get the message across that trees are pretty cool, and necessary, creatures.
As with just about any Seuss adaptation, the eloquently succinct Lorax story had to be padded out to fill a standard 90 minute kid’s film. The filmmakers accomplish this in The Lorax, by making the original story the backstory and using the book’s secondary plot as the main plot in the film.
And so, we meet Ted (Zac Efron), who lives in the hyper-modern city of Thneedville, a Seussian plastic city that runs on bottled O’Hare Air because of all the pollution. In order to impress his crush, Audrey (Taylor Swift), Ted ventures to the wasteland outside of town in search of the mysterious Once-ler (Ed Helms) and any information about the even more mysterious “tree” of legend. In turn, the Once-ler recounts the origins of Thneedville and his relationship with the creature known as The Lorax (Danny DeVito). Eventually, as Ted learns more about the past, we come to understand how the present came to be, and Ted resolves to do something about it (I mean, heck, there’s a girl involved!).
The film has several other important deviations from the book. For one, we get to know the Once-ler as a character much more than we do in the book, where his face is never shown. This makes him a much more sympathetic character in the film, and the extra time spent with him makes his descent into greed, and his eventual redemption, all the more relatable.
On a side note, it is also refreshing to finally have an animated film that relies heavily on musical elements. Watching the staging of some of the musical numbers, I couldn’t help but think back to classic Disney, and while The Lorax isn’t quite Beauty and the Beast, it’s a welcome step in a direction that hasn’t been tread upon too recently.
Overall, I enjoyed The Lorax much more than I thought I would, and would definitely recommend it for families and adult Seuss fans alike.
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax opens today in Philly-area theaters.