Dr Seuss' fable gets a colourful adaptationIn a world of metal and plastic, a young boy sets out to find out what happened to the flora and fauna in the hope of impressing a girl and hears the story of the Once-ler and the magical Lorax.
The works of Theodore S. Geisel (that’s Dr. Seuss to me and you) have had a checked history at the cinema – with the forbidding How the Grinch Stole Christmas an unexpected hit and 2003s The Cat in the Hat an unmitigated disaster. Live action adaptations were subsequently abandoned, with Horton Hears a Who a moderate success in 2008. Now, it’s time for The Lorax to join the box office lottery.
And it’s worked out rather well – at least on the balance sheets. On a budget of a mere $70 million, The Lorax has already clawed back over $300 million in the US alone. That’s a hit by any standards and will see studio Universal pushing the film out with great impetus on its international release.The Lorax is also, for the most part, a surprisingly charming production. There’s an off kilter appeal to the zany visuals and characters, brought to life by the Gallic types responsible for the extremely watchable Despicable Me last year.
The story remains close to Seuss’ original, essentially using the characters of Lorax and Once-ler as stand-ins for nature and industry respectively. When the latter sets his sights on harvesting trees to create an object called a thneed, the Lorax tries benignly to stop him before it’s too late. The metaphors are far from subtle but humanities innate ability to destroy our natural habitat is a lesson worth relaying and there’s a fun snipe at the material need for useless possessions in the thneed musical number.
That’s right, The Lorax is a musical – though you might not know it from the trailers. Together with the stylised visuals they help to set the film apart from other animated offerings, though the quality of the numbers varies considerable from an enjoyably over the top ode to industry to the frankly dull ‘Let it grow’ finale.
The voice cast is a little unusual – Zac Efron plays the young lead (who is less than half his age) and his crush is voiced by young songstress Taylor Swift, who is bizarrely mute during the tunes. Danny DeVito neatly steals the film as the Lorax and he’s matched against the endlessly irritating Ed Helms, who is at least less earnest in animated form and gets to make as many mouth noises as he wants for no reason. You’ll even find go to auld one Betty White, who is just fine as Grammy Norma.The Lorax is a surprisingly watchable piece of fluffy entertainment, taking care to mix somewhat forgettable songs with colourful visuals and enough cute critters (including some marvellous warbling fish) to keep the youngsters distracted. There’s little enough for the elders but the pace is zippy and the ecological and social messages so blatant that some may even feel chastened into planting a tree or two.