I must bashfully admit that I have not read Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but I imagine that there was a reason he named the book after this character. Going by what the film presents, the title is confusing and it seems that it would have been more apt to call it The Once-Ler, as this character is the key figure in the film.
It is a sweet story vividly animated in an explosion of bright colours with cuddly forest creatures all bearing the indelible stamp of Dr. Seuss. It follows the story of a young boy, Ted, who lives in an artificially-constructed and plastic city called Thneedville. In order to woo the girl of his dreams, Audrey, he goes on a mission to make her one dream come true: to see “a real, living tree”. This simple aim turns into a blatantly obvious riff on capitalism and big business; with its protagonists battling for a better, cleaner and more morally sound world. The film’s tone and delivery aims it squarely at children, but the more important messages are sadly lost. Packed with action and visual gimmicks, it will make the children laugh, but will bring nothing more than an indulgent smile to your lips.
The film opens with the Lorax narrating in rhyme and this charming story-telling device, paying tribute to Dr. Seuss, is completely discarded after the opening. Perhaps this was done to avoid comparisons with previous Seuss film adaptations but, whatever the reason, if they introduced it they should have continued with it. Besides, any Dr. Seuss adaptation will inevitably bear stylistic similarities. Instead the film turns into an impromptu musical, with song and dance numbers that are cringe-worthy and songs that continually try to cram in too many words. There is an interesting twist in the film’s less than flattering portrayal of family, as the Once-Ler battles with his. His family only sticks around to support him when he is wealthy and successful, but abandon him as soon as things turn sour.
Whereas the film’s opening is strong, the end is somewhat jarring and sudden – almost as if they forgot about it and hastily put it together. The film squanders its potential by focusing on the wrong things and although aimed more for children, their tastes have become refined and even this may fail to entertain them as much as other wittier animated features.