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The Lorax

Sarah Ward

UNIVERSAL: Based on the book by Dr Seuss, and featuring the voices of Danny DeVito and Zac Efron, this 3D-CG feature is an uneven adaptation of the children’s classic.
The Lorax
For generations of young minds, one literary figure lingers from their first attempts to learn to read. Combining amusing illustrations with easy-to-understand text, the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel often endure to adulthood, courtesy of their offbeat sense of humour and spirit. Indeed, the books originating from the man best known as Dr Seuss are undoubted children’s classics, including The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who. Just as it did in print, his latter offering The Lorax follows in their footsteps, making the leap to the big screen.

The obscure title refers to an orange creature (Danny DeVito, When in Rome) that appears, if needed, to speak for the trees. When all is well on the ecological front, his services aren’t necessary; when humans start destroying the environment, he comes out for all to see. The Lorax first emerges to warn the entrepreneurial Once-ler (Ed Helms, The Hangover) against cutting down Truffula trees for his new invention, called a thneed. Alas, the Once-ler fails to heed his message, devastating the surrounding area in the name of greed.

Despicable Me director Chris Renaud, co-helmer Kyle Balda (an animator on Monsters, Inc.) and writing team Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (Hop) expand upon the novel’s narrative, as told by the elderly Once-ler to inquisitive teen Ted (Zac Efron, New Year’s Eve). The latter finds the Once-ler whilst trying to fulfil the wish of the girl of his dreams, Audrey (Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day), who has visions of real trees in a town filled with plastic vegetation.

Accordingly, the CGI-animated feature tells two tales: one of young love, and another of consumerism trumping conservation. As intended by Geisel, it is the second element that shines, with the fable stronger than the fabricated romance. An evil adversary (Rob Riggle, 21 Jump Street) is also inserted into the mix, alongside a hip grandmother (Betty White, The Proposal). However, both needlessly complicate the otherwise simple story.

Consequently, The Lorax is an uneven adaptation of the beloved book. Although the cute, colourful imagery is immersive and intricate, the adventurous additions to the premise prove distracting and distancing. The singing and dancing is also amiss, as is the superfluous use of the third dimension. When it apes the source’s rhymes and rhythms, The Lorax regales with warmth, but sadly can’t quite satisfy.

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

The Lorax
Directors: Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda
USA, 2012, 86 min

In cinemas March 29
Distributor: Universal
Rated G

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Sarah Ward is a Brisbane-based freelance film critic, writer and festival devotee. In addition to writing for a range of cinema, culture and festival websites, she has worked for a number of entertainment and arts organisations. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay