When it comes to literary adaptations for film, the books we hold near and dear to us will come under heavy scrutiny if their transfers to film don’t work as best as we will hope.
This is a philosophy that I recently faced when The Lorax recently debuted at local multiplexes. The book it is based on, written by Dr. Seuss, is not only my favorite tale by the Doc himself, but also my favorite book ever written, despite the fact that I am a 28 year old male. I love the vibrant colors, love the moral, and think that it’s a great story of environmental protection that knows no age limit.
The Lorax film, which ironically came out on March 2nd, the same day as the late Dr. Seuss’ birthday, visually matches the pictures on the pages by Seuss himself, and the world is supremely vibrant. The first shot of the paradise The Lorax and forest creature inhabit brought a smile to my face, but the rest of the film did not.
I understand it is difficult to bring a short story to full cinematic life, especially in the case of a Dr. Seuss tale, but it would help the movie tons if the present day story of Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) who is trying to impress Audrey (Taylor Swift) by getting a real tree wasn’t so boring.
Ted and Audrey live in a full on artificial land. The trees are fake, the air is bottled, and there’s not much livelihood to be seen, as far as nature is concerned. Anyway, like I said, Ted needs to get a tree to win the affections of his crush, and his grandma (Betty White) tells him to head to the outside of town to meet the Once-Ler (Ed Helms), who tells Ted the story of The Lorax.
Finally we get to where I personally enjoyed the movie the most, which is the core of the book, and that is the back and forth between the Once-Ler and The Lorax (Danny Devito, probably the best choice for voice work in the whole film). This is where the movie really shines, and personally bias aside, it’s where I had the most fun watching. The Lorax does come off as a little bit of a jerk in the beginning, but his character development evens out to more of a protector. Why they decided to show the Once-Ler makes no sense, as his anonymity in the book served the story way better, as anyone could be this destructor of the forest. Oh well.
The scenes with the Lorax are mostly flashbacks, and the forest animals showcased beside him are quite funny, especially the singing trio of fish. My favorite has to be the little bear/bar-ba-loot, Pipsqueak. I want one of him for real.
When the movie is not focusing on the Once-Ler or The Lorax via flashbacks, it drags. I couldn’t care less about Ted and his crush on the girl, or how added bad guy O’ Hare (Rob Riggle) is so pro artificial. These elements should’ve been toned down a lot. We didn’t really need O’ Hare that much when the Once-Ler was already established as the semi antagonist and The Lorax is really a story about Once-Ler’s redemption. O’ Hare’s character arc just felt thrown in to fill time.
The movie does include some tunes, and while some of them are catchy, mostly, they were ok. It kind of fit in the world, though, harkening back to the old Dr. Seuss animated specials, and I liked that this element reminded me of the old tv specials. But the movies will never hold a candle to those programs anyway.
Also, to make mention, I did not see the film in TREE-D, but I could imagine where they used it to gimmicky effect. Honestly, the movie looked gorgeous, even without 3-D, and the Truffula Tufts looked so soft I wanted to touch them.
Overall, I can say I was disappointed with The Lorax. There was a strong piece of movie here that I thoroughly enjoyed when it wasn’t focusing on the modern day with Ted and company, and had that been more at the heart (like it should’ve been, to definitely expand upon the moral at play), I would’ve loved it all the more. However, some boring scenes, along with not enough humor or heart, brought this movie down faster than a chopped Truffula Tree.
It’s not the worst Dr. Seuss movie, but it’s certainly not the best.
Oh, and you cannot have an environmental movie start with The Lorax littering. I’d like to thank my company for the film for pointing that out.