On a Friday afternoon, I find myself sitting in the cinema, about to watch the latest film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book: The Lorax. Admittedly, I am not the biggest Dr. Seuss fan, having only briefly been read a few of his wonderfully bizarre poems a long time ago, but I did enjoy The Grinch back in 2000. From a quick look round at the audience it is evident that I am not the target audience, but nevertheless I had high hopes for a movie from director Chris Renaud who gave us 2010’s Despicable Me, set for a sequel next year.
The release of The Lorax coincides with the anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ 108th birthday, the author and illustrator of much-loved titles such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and The Cat in the Hat. The Lorax is perhaps one of Seuss’ more serious works, dealing with the topics of environmentalism and sustainable development. As a modern cautionary tale about the dangers of exploiting nature, it is presented for the first time in visually-breathtaking 3D which adds to the vivid colours and the attention to detail of the CGI animation.
The plot expands on the original story and is set in Thneed-ville, a plastic city in which everything is synthetic and its citizens even pay for clean air, provided by the film’s villain, the mayor O’Hare (Rob Riggle). A young boy, Ted (Zac Efron), is shown a mural of Truffula trees painted by love interest Audrey (Taylor Swift). She says that the one thing she would most like in the world is a real tree, and that she would probably marry on the spot the man who brought her one. Ted then sets himself the task of finding a real tree, and is told by his grandmother Grammy Norma (Betty White) to visit the Once-ler, who lives outside of town in the polluted countryside.
Ted manages to see the Once-ler (Ed Helms), and the majority of the film is devoted to the Once-ler’s tale of how he aspired to set up a great factory to produce Thneeds, and was warned by the Lorax (Danny DeVito), the guardian of the forest, not to chop down the trees for thread. Yet the Once-ler, driven by greed, does not heed the Lorax, and devastates the landscape. Now it falls to Ted to restore the balance and persuade the people of Thneed-ville of the importance of trees and nature.
Whilst some may have criticised the animation of trivialising the original story’s subject matter, I think that Renaud has actually managed to present it in a fresh way. The voice talents of the actors brought each character to life, and I especially warmed to the amusing Grammy Norma, the surprisingly cunning snowboarding grandmother.
There are a few musical numbers, something which I usually cringe away from, but in this case they really worked, and the mix of rock, electronic and gospel music in songs such as ‘Let It Grow’ were not only memorable, but left you with a feel-good vibe at the end of the movie.
Perhaps the debate over the movie’s subject is the product of adults over-thinking what is a thoroughly entertaining animation. It isn’t overly-didactic, in fact, it is very tongue-in-cheek at times, yet it can teach a younger generation about the importance of caring for nature and the environment around us.