Dr Seuss’ The Lorax
A visual delight let down by its sledgehammer approach to storytelling
The latest adaptation to be plucked from Dr. Seuss’s enduring oeuvre comes from the makers of Despicable Me, and it’s a visual delight; all beautifully-designed 3D animation, detailed sight gags and unique characters shaped in Seuss’s immediately recognisable style. If only similar care and attention had been paid to the story, which buries Dr. Suess’s sharp and environmentally-conscious tale in a broad mish-mash of satire and sentiment.
The film begins with an amusing introduction from the Lorax himself. Perfectly voiced by Danny DeVito, he’s a little orange creature with a big yellow moustache who, so he tells us, ‘speaks for the trees’. The curtain then opens on Thneedville, a fantastical town where there are no real trees and citizens gleefully pollute the environment while buying canned air from billionaire tycoon Mr O’Hare (Rob Riggle). This scenario turns out to be a clunky way of padding out the real substance of the film, which emerges when youngster Ted (Zac Efron) ventures out of the town’s boundary walls in search of the brilliantly-named Once-ler, who is rumoured to know what happened to the trees. This Once-ler (Ed Helms), a typically Seussian character, locked away in a physically impossible house surrounded by booby-traps, retells his sorry past, how he met the Lorax but ignored his warnings and caused grave harm to the environment through his own greed and arrogance.
It’s a convoluted tale, and it powers along at a punishingly intense pace, zipping so fast from one big moment to the next that the story is never given time to breathe or naturally develop. Even given that the film is aimed at younger viewers, a little more of a subtle approach would have gone a long way; as it is everything from the satire to the songs is pounded home in sledgehammer style. It retains the unique oddness that makes Dr. Seuss stories special, but only just.
Showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival, Sat 23 & Sun 24 Jun.