Dr Seuss’ The Lorax is the third animated venture from Illumination Entertainment, the creators of the charming and funny 2010 animation Despicable Me. Based on Dr Seuss’ 1970’s book of the same name, it tells the story of the Once-ler, a creature whose ambition and greed led to the extinction of the trees, and his relationship with The Lorax - the bright orange, moustached and bushy eye-browed guardian of the trees.
This original plot from Dr Seuss is also framed by a new but less powerful story. Youngster Ted seeks out the Once-ler in an effort to bring back trees to the plasticky town of Thneedville. Unfortunately this is not out of his concern for the environment, but to impress the beautiful Audrey. In parallel with The Lorax’s own tale, Ted’s efforts are thwarted by the greedy industrialist, O’Hare, who makes his fortune selling clean, bottled air to the town’s inhabitants.
All in all, these dual stories offer a comment on modern times and a warning for the future. There are strong messages about the environment and the economy throughout, including musical numbers with lyrics such as ‘how bad can I be, I’m just building the economy?’. Comical jibes at advertising show the film’s creators at their best. Events such as the untimely death of the first tree and the impact of industrialisation on the forest animals, are dealt with delicately, becoming touching moments that quietly ask the viewer to think. But, thanks to it’s skillful blend of earnestness with humour and cuteness, The Lorax never feels like a lesson.
It’s a film full of Dr Seuss quirkiness that makes for good entertainment and exciting visuals. The Truffula trees look like perfect candy floss and strange concepts - like butterfly milk - are never far away. The animation is beautiful, particularly a flowing scene over rolling hills and rivers that introduces the paradise of the Thneedville forest. The Lorax also uses its 3D to good effect, enhancing the experience of the forest and industrialised environments.
Fans of Dr Seuss’ lyrical rhyming will enjoy a rhyming introduction from The Lorax himself. But, for the most part, The Lorax replaces Dr Seuss’ lyrical style with an assortment of bland and forgettable songs. On the plus side, a band of singing fish with sickly sweet harmonies bring a nice dash of fun.
As for the characters, those in the modern town of Thneedville are the most entertaining. Ted’s grandma is a nice take on the fun grandparent and O’Hare is an interesting adversary. Back in the forest, the Once-ler ebbs between funny and annoying. And the Lorax himself, despite being the trees’ guardian, has virtually no power to stop the Once-ler’s onslaught of the forest. As he resorts to exasperated pleading and guilt tripping, the Lorax also verges on irritating at times. But as his voice is lost amongst the majority who yearn for industrialisation, this is perhaps part of the film’s message.
Dr Seuss’ The Lorax is a solid family film that offers entertainment and a valuable message. No doubt The Lorax will come in for some stick, for commercialising this simple environmental story with an array of commercial sponsors - albeit only those with a green edge were chosen. But that is a different question. As a family film, The Lorax delivers and if it helps to reach new Lorax readers and pass on a positive message about sustainability, well, that can only be a good thing.
Running Time: 86 minutes