Based on the book of the same name Dr Seuss’ The Lorax is an environmentally conscious story of one boy’s noble quest to restore balance between avaricious mankind and Mother Nature. It’s a timely message in light of a recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, warning that by 2050 global greenhouse gas emissions will far exceed levels deemed safe by scientists. Nurture that cheery thought as you watch the film’s gangly, computer-animated hero risk his life in breathless action sequences to plant a tree.
While The Lorax might hope to galvanise young audiences into action — free packets of seeds with every children’s ticket would have been a nice touch — this is primarily escapist entertainment, melding comedy, mystery and a hint of pre-teen romance.
Vocal performances are solid, including a suitably gruff Danny DeVito as the titular forest sprite, whose premonitions of ecological disaster fall on deaf ears.
Twelve-year-old Ted Wiggins (voiced by Zac Efron) lives in the carefully controlled utopia of Thneed-ville with his mother (Jenny Slate) and feisty grandmother Norma (Betty White).
Town mayor Aloysius O’Hare (Rob Riggle) provides the residents with all they need including blissful sunshine — everything except for real plants, which are manufactured in a factory.
Ted pines for the girl next door, Audrey (Taylor Swift), who tells him dreamily: “What I want to see more than anything in the whole world is a real-life tree growing in my backyard.”
So the smitten lad seeks out a hermit called the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who apparently knows why all of the Truffula trees disappeared from Thneed-ville.
In exchange for 15 cents, a nail and the shell of a great, great, great grandfather snail, the Once-ler recounts how he inadvertently devastated the lush landscape for generations to come and “summoned the legendary and slightly annoying guardian of the forest” known as The Lorax (DeVito).
Through these reminiscences, Ted realises that Aloysius O’Hare doesn’t want real trees restored to Thneed-ville because the miracle of photosynthesis would jeopardise the mayor’s lucrative oxygen supply business.
Aware of the perils that lay ahead, Ted resolves to bring green back to Thneed-ville and win Audrey’s heart.
Dr Seuss’ The Lorax is rendered in lurid, sherbetty hues that radiate off the screen.
Indeed, Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda’s film is so bright, you feel like donning sunglasses and SPF 25 rather than cumbersome plastic 3D specs, which are de rigueur nowadays.
Efron and Swift’s honey-toned voices perfectly fit their cutesy characters, while the animators let their imaginations run amok in scenes of pre-deforestation Thneed-ville: marshmallow-guzzling bears tumble acrobatically through the air to doo-wops from a barbershop trio of fish.
All very inventive, although villain Aloysius seems to hark from the same gene pool as Edna Mode in The Incredibles, minus her impeccable comic timing.
DeVito’s furry, orange voice of conscience continually reminds anyone who will listen that the world can’t heal itself: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Underlying messages of unity and self-sacrifice for a greater good are admirable, drizzled with mawkish sentimentality to sweeten the pill.