I’m left feeling a tad ambiguous about Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, considering there was nothing much to get excited about nor anything terribly negative to dwell on. It’s a movie that kids will likely find funny, and one that adults may or may not. When taking into consideration how many really enjoyable animated films come out in a given year, the big surprise of The Lorax is that it’s not so special after all.
The Lorax brings us inside the town of Thneadville, a place only the imagination of Dr. Seuss could create. A young Thneadville boy named Ted (Zac Efron) learns that his neighbor and girl of his dreams Audrey (Taylor Swift) will marry a guy on the spot for simply bringing her a tree. The thing about Thneadville, though, is that there are no trees. The place is completely artificial. The locals breathe air produced and sold by corporate cad Mr. O’ Hare (Rob Riggle), who is more content to keep people unaware about the wonders of photosynthesis.
Thus, Ted takes the dangerous trek outside of town to locate the Once-ler (Ed Helms), an unpleasant old man who supposedly can give him the scoop on what happened to all the greenery. The story involves flashbacks to the Once-ler as a young man during a time when there were trees, and his relationship with — you guessed it — the Lorax (Danny DeVito), a fuzzy little mustached creature who is protector of the land and the creatures that inhabit it. I could go into detail on how the Once-ler’s story results in the annihilation of trees, but that would take the fun out of hearing Ed Helms’ narration skills for yourself.
What’s important is that without the Once-ler’s help, Ted is sure to never reintroduce trees into his society. Not to mention the fact that his continual trips outside of Thneadville to visit the Once-ler are arousing O’ Hare’s suspicions.
The Lorax further proves that 3D is best served when applied to animation. It adds a level of depth to the picture and allows the filmmakers to play around with ways to involve the audience. Directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda use the 3D to their advantage, giving us some point-of-view action sequences and a few playful 3D gags of objects flying off the screen. I’m beginning to wonder, though, how much praise I should give the 3D in an animated film, since the technique seems standard at this point.
Unless we’re talking about a film like Wall-E, which was superior in every facet to others in its genre, animated features often use comedy as a crutch to keep the story moving. This is where The Lorax falters. It’s not very funny, and without consistent laughs, there’s nothing to mask potential problems with pacing. It’s cute and heart-warming, but a movie can only be so charming when it lacks substantial humor. Watching The Lorax frequently felt tedious, and while I appreciated the cleverness of the multipurpose “thnead” products being a metaphor for the many uses we have for trees, as well as O’ Hare representing everything that’s wrong with corporate America, there’s not much else to appeal to adults outside of celebrities doing some great voice acting.
Look, if you’re not going to be as gloomy as the original Dr. Seuss books (though I wish all of the film adaptations were), then the good doctor’s outrageous imagination and comedy needs to be played up. The Lorax passes on both, and instead tediously tries to pull a feature length film out of a book that was more of a short story than a novel. Next time, I wish they would just stick closer to the printed page — which, ironically, are made of trees.