Cast: Danny DeVito as The Lorax (voice) Ed Helms as The Once-ler (voice) Zac Efron as Ted (voice) Taylor Swift as Audrey (voice) Betty White as Grammy Norma (voice) Rob Riggle as Mr. O’Hare (voice) Jenny Slate as Ted’s Mom (voice) Nasim Pedrad as Once-ler’s Mom (voice) Joel Swetow as 1st Marketing Guy (voice) Michael Beattie as 2nd Marketing Guy (voice) Dave B. Mitchell as 1st Commercial Guy (voice) Dempsey Pappion as 2nd Commercial Guy (voice) Elmarie Wendel as Aunt Grizelda (voice) Danny Cooksey as Brett / Chet (voice) Stephen Tobolowsky as Uncle Ubb (voice)
Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
Summary: Original music, impressive 3D, and a faithful adaptation of the book make “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” a fun movie, but what may be perceived as political bias could turn off some audience members.
Story: This film is based on the book “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss.
In the town of Thneedville, everything is plastic and manufactured… and the people like it that way. But when Ted’s friend Audrey says she’d like to see a real tree one day, Ted goes on a quest to find one in order to win her love.
Ted ventures outside the walls of Thneedville in search of The Once-ler, supposedly the only individual who knows how to find a tree. Ted finds the old hermit who reluctantly tells the tale of how he was responsible for all of the trees being cut down. The Once-ler also tells Ted about how the magical representative of the trees named The Lorax tried to stop him to no avail.
But while Ted hears the story of the trees, the evil head of the O’Hare Company conspires to keep him from bringing them back.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is rated PG for brief mild language.
What Worked: As far as adaptations of Dr. Seuss books go, this one is pretty faithful. The core story of conservation is here. The core story of the Lorax and The Once-ler is here. The designs of the characters and backgrounds look like they almost all came from Seuss himself. And I love how they captured the unique environments where there are no straight lines or right angles. Then, where they were required to expand on the original book, they did so in a logical way. You see what happens well after the book ends and there’s a nice resolution for all of the characters, as well as the appropriate environmental messages. Overall it’s a pretty good adaptation.
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” also features some fantastic use of 3D. When characters go flying through the air, they seem to come out of the screen at you. When one of the little bears drops drool towards the camera, it flies right towards the audience who gasps and laughs. You see every hair in the Lorax’s mustache, every strand of fluff on the trees, and every scale on the fish. The creators also use some first person views during some chases and action scenes in order to add extra excitement. This was a very effective use of 3D on the big screen.
The voice cast was pretty good. Danny DeVito is a great choice as The Lorax. His voice perfectly fits the feisty character not to mention the fact that they’re both about the same height. Ed Helms is also good as The Once-ler, both in his younger and older incarnations. While I thought it was a little cheap to give him an electric guitar, Helms at least put enough energy into the songs to justify it. And while Taylor Swift as Audrey is a bit of stunt casting to get teens into the theater seats, she still did a good job bringing life and energy to her character.
There are several original songs featured in “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” and I’m happy they were in there. While a lot of movies simply rehash existing songs, I’m glad the creators made an effort to do something new. “Let It Grow” is the big song from the movie and I’d expect it to get some Oscar nominations next year. While it has a big environmental theme, there are some really funny lines in it as parents talk about their glowing kids and Mr. O’Hare makes a last ditch attempt to sway the angry mob his way. Another song sung by Ed Helms entitled “How Bad Can I Be?” is a great entry into the villain song genre not only because it is a toe-tapper but because you see the hero quickly slipping to the dark side.
Finally, I have to mention the cute little bears in the movie. While they’re blatantly following the formula of the Minions from “Despicable Me,” it actually works. They’re funny and they add nice little comedic bits here and there. They pretty much steal every scene they are in.
What Didn’t Work: There’s nothing wrong with a movie having an agenda. Every movie has one, no matter how blatant or subtle it may be. But I feel like when your agenda is conservation, one of the worst things you can do is shoot yourself in the foot by becoming political. By becoming political, you immediately alienate half your audience, no matter how noble your original goal was. And I think “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” does that. Going into this film, there were accusations by pundits at Fox News that movies like “Big Miracle” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” were trying to brainwash kids into political agendas. I thought that was stupid, baseless, and ignorant commentary by people that probably hadn’t even seen the films. But as “Lorax” started, we were treated to a musical number showing Thneedville where everything is plastic, oblivious townspeople drive ridiculously large vehicles, and everything is controlled by a greedy corporation. I thought, “OK, so they’re anti-consumerism and anti-big companies. It’s not subtle, but it’s what I expected from a Lorax movie.” But then they had a moment where they showed a group of people who looked like they were praying saying, “We thank the Lord for what we’ve got, including this new parking lot.” So the movie starts out by labeling the townspeople as oblivious and/or ignorant consumers and then additionally labeling them as religious. If that doesn’t give the political pundits the ammunition they needed to accuse “Lorax” of political bias, I don’t know what does. So now your great message of conservation, protecting the environment, and looking at the big picture is overshadowed by political bickering. I know it’s asking a lot to get Hollywood to rein in its political bias, but I think this is a case where it should have been done more. So in the opening 5 minutes, I was turned off by the film and it took the rest of the movie to win me back. Fortunately it did, but it was not an easy process.
All that being said, the whole ‘evil big company’ thing felt a bit too easy. In fact, Mr. O’Hare, his company, and his henchmen seemed like the least Seuss-ical things in the film. From their design to their products, it just didn’t fit. I wish they had gone for something a bit more outlandish. Without the Lorax portions of the film, the evil company vs. the noble kid thing felt like something we’ve seen from dozens of other movies.
The Bottom Line: If you can get past the whole political thing, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is a fun movie for both kids and adults. Grown-ups will like seeing their beloved childhood book brought to the big screen in 3D while kids will enjoy the antics of the Lorax and the bears. Plus it’s a good message about conserving natural resources and taking care of the environment.