A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming ... Read allA 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world.
And that is really no small feat, as fans of the author can attest- Hollywood has had a hit-and-miss record with the Seuss, bungling terribly in recent years with Mike Myers' 'The Cat in the Hat', before redeeming itself with the 2008 animated 'Horton Hears A Who'. It's no coincidence therefore that the writers of 'Horton'- Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul- are once again the creative scripting force behind this adaptation, and once again the duo demonstrate their sharp Seussian sensibilities in what is possibly the author's most controversial work.
Indeed, the story of a reclusive hermit known as the Once-Ler (voiced here by Ed Helms) who recounts his encounter with a strange orange creature known as the Lorax that had huge yellow eyebrows and a moustache like Yosemite Sam was also a pro-conservation and anti- consumerist fable that courted its fair share of detractors when it was first published and still does so today. Of course, these are also different times today, when concerns about climate change and the environment have crept into both the social and political sphere.
To expand the short story to feature-length, there is now a backstory to the 12-year-old boy who visits the Once-Ler- named Ted (Zac Efron) as a nice nod to the Dr. Seuss (whose real name was Theodor Grissel), this jolly teenager has but one purpose, to get a living tree and win the affection of his sweet high-school age neighbour Audrey (Taylor Swift). Both Ted and Audrey live in the totally artificial town of Thneedville, where everything including the trees is made of plastic and the people are oblivious to the gray desolate wasteland outside of their cocooned city.
With some handy advice from a surprisingly sprightly Grammy Norma (voiced by Betty White), Ted sees firsthand the grim polluted world outside of Thneedville on his way to visit the Once-Ler. Once there, the Once-Ler recounts his folly as a young and ambitious entrepreneur who stumbled upon the beautiful Truffula Valley abounding with candy- coloured lollipop-style Truffula trees, Humming-Fish and cub-like Barbaloots. It's as far from the Truffula Ted's seen as can be, and director Chris Renaud pulls out all the stops to make sure that it is a gorgeous eye-popping visual feast.
The first tree Ted falls summons the Lorax, a guardian of nature who tells Ted that he speaks for the trees and implores him to spare a thought for the forest creatures whose livelihood depends on them. For a while, Ted appears to pay heed to the Lorax, but when his knitted garment he calls the thneed becomes an unforeseen sensation in town, greed takes over and it isn't long before the entire valley is decimated.
It is a cautionary eco-fable all right, and there is a clever metaphor here in how something so sought after like the thneed can be so quickly and easily forgotten. There is also added relevance in what happens after, as another entrepreneurial mind quickly takes over by supplying bottled fresh air to the people of Thneedville and becoming the town's unofficial mayor in the process. Opportunity presents itself in calamity, but how we make use of it is yet something else altogether- that is the lesson Daurio and Paul make as they set up O'Hare (Rob Riggle) and his two bulky bodyguards as the nemeses Ted has to defeat in a thrilling action-packed finish.
The additions will no doubt entertain the kids, but older audiences familiar with the books will be glad to know that the Seussian spirit is well and alive in this zany rollicking adventure. Reverential too is the visual cues that the movie takes from Seuss- both in terms of the curvy undulating lines and shapes as well as the bright colours- and like "Horton", you'll know when you see it that you're in his world.
Deserving of mention as well is the excellent voice cast assembled for the film. Efron conveys youthful naivety as much as Swift, while Helms gives the Once-Ler its necessary idiosyncrasies as well as an unexpected depth lamenting the folly of his past. But the true firecracker here is DeVito, returning after some years of being sidelined in Hollywood to tip-top form as the Lorax. There is verve and edge in every line of DeVito's delivery, crackling and popping as much as the colours do in every frame.
There is also plenty for the kids to embrace, especially the minion-like creatures of the forest courtesy most likely of Renaud- we dare you to resist falling in love with the three aptly named Humming-Fish and the Barbaloots. The stereoscopic treatment here is also a treat (and even more so in IMAX), lending the Seussian-scapes a lush vibrant feel and the action sequences an added dimension of excitement.
But of course this is nary just harmless diversion for the kids, and the true weight of this animation is its environmental message of conservation told in a simple- but not simplistic- manner to be understood by audiences of all ages. It is an adaptation Dr. Seuss would very likely be proud of if he were still around, in no small measure because it echoes Seuss' essential plea summarised right at the end: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."
- Mar 2, 2012