Theodore Seuss Greisel is an American children’s fiction icon, having made his name with books like Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. Recent years have seen a mixed bag of cinema releases based on these favourites, the latest of which is based on The Lorax, a cautionary tale about the dangers of sacrificing nature in favour of short-term profit.
Ted (Zac Efron) is a teenage boy from Thneedville, a town that has replaced natural trees with electronic ones. In an effort to impress a girl, Audrey (Taylor Swift) he leaves the town in search of The Once-ler (Ed Helms) whom his grandmother tells him will be able to point him in the right direction to find a natural tree. The Once-ler tells hims a story of the time he found a forest which was guarded by a mystical (and annoying) creature known only as The Lorax (Danny DeVito).
The varying quality of Seuss’ adaptations has been difficult to predict with Horton Hears a Who! Being well-constructed, The Grinch being decent enough and The Cat in the Hat being terrible. The Lorax, for all its credibility on paper is more toward the middle-to-low end in terms of quality. The cast are solid, with Helms and DeVito being the obvious standouts. Zac Efron is however, miscast as a teenager, with a far too deep voice to be convincing, while Taylor Swift, a singer rather than an actress is the only main character, bizarrely not to perform a musical number throughout the entirety of the film.
The style is loud, colourful yet strangely devoid of character. The Lorax’s central message is supposed to be a pro-environment, anti-capitalist one, yet its presentation, as part of an ongoing brand extension for the Seuss works in cinema becomes exactly what it rails against. A horribly sweet, tacked on ending goes one step further to ruining the key message and for a children’s animation, there are precious few laughs.
The Lorax’s musical numbers are catchy and fun, if devoid of depth and there’s a sense that the film-makers spied a money-spinner and just produced a by-the-numbers animated film with clichÃ©s ranging from a tyrannical midget antagonist to a loveless relationship between two teenagers. Where The Lorax excels is the flashback sequence surrounding The Oncle-ler and The Lorax, but this is preciously short and almost immediately forgotten in exchange for the story of Ted and Audrey. It’s a sweet, forgettable and sadly very flawed interpretation of a popular children’s classic and The Lorax will be consigned to the bin of lesser animated works.