Movie Review: ‘The Lorax’ – Iowa State Daily

‘The Lorax’
Davalyn Stepzinski

If you’re willing to ignore a few over-the-top songs and unneeded comedic additions, you’ll find the heartwarming story is still very much there, as well as the message.
Originally, I shunned “The Lorax” when I first saw the trailer pop up some time last November. I got animated (oh, puns) about how much they would take liberties with it, since the story is only so many pages long, and how they would have to add another storyline to make it last over an hour. The thought of manipulating this beloved book of my childhood destroyed me, especially since I have been attached to the 1972 half hour film of the same name since grade school. “The Lorax” carried me into my love of recycling and my current frenzy of reducing my carbon footprint. It extends so far as to fighting the urge to go to jump upon tree stumps whenever I spot them and shout, “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues!”
Hence this film gave me heavy boots for a time, but as it turns out, “The Lorax” is actually a beautiful piece of work in its own right.
Many people know the story: a boy goes outside of town to talk to an elder, called the Once-ler, about what once existed and how the Lorax went away. This version adds, calling the boy Ted (Zac Efron) and giving a reason for why he went to the Once-ler in the first place. Ted and his family, containing his disco-obsessed mother (Jenny Slate) and kooky grandmother (Betty White), live in Sneedville where air is sold in plastic containers and trees are plastic, thanks to the genius of Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle). With an affinity for the girl next door, Audrey (Taylor Swift), who is charmed by the prospect of real Truffula Trees and hopes to see one, Ted makes it his mission to obtain one, which takes him outside of town to the Once-ler (Ed Helms).
While this film does not use many of the original rhymes like the half hour film, it does use music. In fact, it opens with a song. A very irritating song that has so many bells and whistles, it is both outrageous and overwhelming. If this song had set the tone for the rest of it, I think I may have left broken-hearted. However the film mellows out and lets the characters put things into motion, which is done well since in their own ways, they are particularly charming, the young Once-ler being an exception. They give him a backstory, which I appreciate, for it shows how naive and inexperienced he is when he first finds himself amongst the Truffula Trees, Humming-Fish, Swomee-Swans, and Brown Bar-ba-loots and how he progresses into the arrogant and irresponsible business owner of Thneeds. It is a nice set up, and there is a lovely song in there that actually has a great message as well, but somehow it manages to makes him even harder to care about; you care more about the old, wiser Once-ler.
The Lorax (Danny DeVito) himself enters the story with a serious tone that slowly turns into a more humorous one. This is where much of the ‘unneeded comedic additions’ take place that are likely thrown in to keep the youngsters and such entertained. Personally, I thought they detracted and were trying too hard, and I’ll leave it at that. All in all, they made the Lorax into more of a friendly but firm-ish character, which I was not as fond of, since I enjoyed the implied stuffiness of the Lorax from both the book and the previous film; he had a stubborn quality that made him more difficult to ignore. If the Once-ler from this film had encountered that version of the Lorax, I have a feeling the Once-ler would have packed up and went elsewhere.
The animation and art direction were solid, staying true to the colorful and quirky drawings of Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, and effectively bringing life to all of his creations in a beautiful way. Seeing the Truffula Trees sway in the wind was my particular favorite, for they seemed all the more magical.
My last few comments address two things. One, there are some debates about the revealing of the Once-ler. I was not particularly thrilled by it either, for it makes his character much more mysterious and eerie when his appearance ended at his eyes and green hands. However, personifying him helps people relate to his character more and allows for endings like the one in this film, which will be worth it. As someone who rarely cries at all, this ending succeeded in getting a few tears from me. Two, I was forced to see this in 3D due to a scheduling conflict. I have only seen a few movies in 3D and in all honesty, 3D is just an attachment to make an awful movie seem more engaging; it was nice seeing the future land of Thneedville in all its animated glory, but you can take a pass and use your imagination the way Dr. Seuss intended.
So to sum it all up, “The Lorax” is entertaining, dazzling, and still driven with an environmental statement; it is just done a little differently.
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