“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” on big screen: in the true spirit of the classic?

When I went to view Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, I expected a revision of the classic, a creative use of words through rhyme, and an equivalent or stronger message about environmental responsibility similar to the original children’s book and short animation. Has the soul been stripped from the original work of Theodor Seuss Geisel?

The story is stretched into a full-length film by introducing a young boy named Ted (Zac Efron) who hopes to win over his neighbor, Audrey (Taylor Swift), by finding her a real tree. This is something that seems impossible to locate in a plastic and artificial town. Deviating from the original animation, a new villain, Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle), is brought into the plot selling clean air to residents in smog infested Thneedville. Meanwhile, Ted is encouraged by his Grammy Norma (Betty White) to venture out from the enclosed town into the wasteland to find the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who can help him find a tree for his beloved Audrey. The Once-ler, who was a mysterious figure in the original work, is now given a face as he delivers the tale of corporate greed and the abolishment of all truffala trees.

The visual presentation that brings to life Ted’s quest to find Audrey a tree is delivered in 3D animation with gorgeous colors and cute characters. The world that the viewer is put in while the Once-ler tells the tale of what happened to the truffala trees is rendered in very vibrant colors. The forest is stunning with truffala treetops looking almost like fluffs of colorful cotton candy. The humming fish are humorous to both adults and children, but are too similar to the minions in Despicable Me. The whole movie tends to overlap too much with Despicable Me as it is the same team consisting of Director Chris Renaud and screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. This quality could be considered a delight depending on the viewer’s preference for the previous movie.

While the film also includes what every child wants to see in a movie, an action packed high-speed chase due to Ted being given the very last seed from the Once-ler to plant in his hometown, there is not much of Dr. Seuss’ spirit in what the title claims. The characters are easily forgotten and their personalities are quite generic. The Lorax is given a flat personality and appears as a distant actor to the story while the original animation of 1972 uses the small, mustached creature as one of the main characters. The Lorax speaks more for the trees in the original 24-minute short animation than he does in the 86-minute production. While the message is carried over from the original work, the way the story is told is static. The film does not stir emotions nor allows the underlying message of the story to feel important. This is a major disappointment for me since part of my childhood consisted of Theodor Geisel’s unique play with words while being a man of credibility who always brings a deeper moral message behind the fun. It appears that Hollywood’s Universal Pictures stripped the meaning behind the original work of Dr. Seuss in order to focus more on captivating graphics, wacky grandmas, a villain with a Napoleon complex, and a typical love story.

The story is not badly structured, but it is just not an exceptional one. The dialogs are clearly adapted to fit a youthful audience, but the music feels from a past era especially the gospel ending song, “Let it Grow.” The voice of Danny DeVito, who is generally a strong voice actor, is quite lost in the role of The Lorax, which does not benefit from this choice of actor even though it should have in order to forward Dr.Seuss’ strong environmental message from his graphic novel. It was often the case that Rob Riggle’s character, O’Hare, had a stronger voice and role in the film than The Lorax, which deviates from the original story. The overall quality of sound and image however is exceptional from a technical standpoint and is sure to keep a child’s attention.

Dr Seuss’ The Lorax is a triple-A title with triple-A actors based on a sensational book, but the adaptation, that I suspect was hard to make, leaves this title soulless. The original work has unfortunately fallen victim to an unsuccessful attempt at remastering a classic.  The viewer is taken away by the visuals while the real heart of The Lorax, its story, passes by unnoticed. It is much like a piano piece played flawlessly, by a machine.

Photo courtesy of http://www.care2.com

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