Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, much like the Happy Feet films before it, has all the subtlety of a hammer to the skull. Yes, environment-friendly themes are important to impart on impressionable young minds, but it’s so overbearing that it’s hard to enjoy the animation, songs and sweet story.
Based on the Dr. Seuss book, in Thneedville everything is made of plastic and a corrupt but miniscule businessman (Rob Riggle) provides the fresh air. The residents accept this, except for teenager Audrey (Taylor Swift). She longs to see a real tree, which means 12-year-old Ted (Zac Efron) knows what he has to do to impress her: find a real tree.
After some advice from Grandma (Betty White), Ted ventures outside of the enclosed, prison-like Thneedville and encounters the Once-ler (Ed Helms), a monster-like recluse who lives at the top of a booby-trapped tower. The Once-ler tells Ted how he got there and why (by destroying trees), and as we flash back we meet The Lorax (Danny DeVito), the guardian of the forest whose job is to stop idiots like the otherwise likeable Once-ler from destroying nature.
What will kids learn from this? Trees provide air, life, color and beauty. Just think about cutting them down and you’re greeted by a grumpy bright orange oompa loompa like The Lorax, whose mustache alone demands attention. Cut them down anyway and the world will be full of darkness and despair. And if you’re the Once-ler, your sentence for destroying nature is purgatory in a tower with a Howard Hughes level of freak-dom. Oh, and big business is bad. Could somebody please tell directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda that their target audience of little kids barely understands the value of a dollar?
There no doubt will be parents who find the movie’s message ridiculous. Businessmen whose lives depend on desire for a product are demonized, even if in reality the economy needs their income as well. But I’m not here to judge the merits of the film’s message, let alone delve into a socioeconomic discussion. No, my question is far easier: Will your children enjoy the film?
In a word, yes. The songs are peppy and upbeat, and although the 3D animation isn’t impressive, it looks very Seussian, which is a good thing. Amusing bits are dabbled throughout, but only a quick moment in which we hear the Mission: Impossible theme can be considered for parents. The action scenes are entertaining, and the voice work is solid. This certainly isn’t a bad movie.
It is, however, its own worst enemy. There’s nothing here for adults, but children 10 and below will enjoy Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and who knows? They may even be more environmentally conscious after seeing it. That’s a win-win for the kids, but a zero-sum gain for adults.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (2½) • Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda • Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Danny DeVito •Rated PG • 94 min •At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Cannery Row XD.