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Movie Reviews

Dr. Seuss 'The Lorax'

Dr. Seuss 'The Lorax'

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Neil Pond
American Profile
March 28, 2012
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Starring the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron & Taylor Swift
Directed by Chris Renaud & Kyle Balda • PG, 86 min.

Dr. Suess’ 1971 save-the-planet wake-up call gets a big-budget, 3-D animated update with the voices of Taylor Swift, Zac Efron and Danny DeVito.

In “The Lorax,” the author of “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Horton Hears a Who” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” channeled environmental concerns into a cautionary fable about a reckless industrialist who creates a plasticized, polluted world without any trees.

To stretch the storybook to movie proportions, this new version layers on new characters, adds numerous scenes and sequences and scraps almost all the Seuss-ian signature rhythmic rhymes for “contemporary” dialogue. But the basic story, and its message of caring for the world, is intact. And the movie has a genuine feel for the whimsically imaginative, vibrantly visual world of Seuss’ well-known illustrations.

Swift and Efron (or, to be precise, their voices) don’t really add much to their roles of 12-year-old Ted and Audrey, the tree-obsessed teenage girl on whom he has a crush. Behind the animation, they could be anyone. DeVito, however, pretty much becomes one with the Lorax, the stumpy, frumpy, mustached creature that stands up when growing things start getting mowed down. He’s perfect.

“I am the Lorax,” he says. “I speak for the trees.”

Betty White sounds like she’s having a hoot as Ted’s feisty granny, one of the few people in Thneedville who can actually remember when concrete didn’t cover every inch of ground. As the tree-chopping, Thneed-making Once-ler, Ed Helms is given significantly more play in the movie than his character was in the book, where his face was never shown.

When it was published back in the 1970s, some readers felt “The Lorax” bashed commerce and industry, feeding kids a subversive, hippy-dippy message of “environmental activism.” Some libraries and schools even banned it, especially in communities where timber was big business.

The movie today projects its theme through a prism of even timelier contemporary woes of failed banks, corporate fat cats and the general feeling that the “green” is being squeezed out of most everyone left and right. In one scene, a framed magazine cover on the environment-destroying Once-ler bears the all-too-familiar headline “Too Big To Fail.”

The Lorax may speak for the trees, but his words now reverberate across a modern-day landscape of lost jobs, decimated savings and defeated dreams in ways that even the socially conscious Dr. Seuss could have never imagined.

--Neil Pond, American Profile

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