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"Everybody Needs a Thneed!"
on March 3, 2012
Based upon the book by Dr. Seuss (whose name is officially part of the title), THE LORAX has been contemporized a bit making it accessible to not only super-environmental-types, but to those who were raised upon conservation and not environmentalism. In THE LORAX, Ted (Zac Efron) is a twelve-year-old boy who lives in the plasticized, walled city of Thneedville. Ted is in love with a teenage girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift). Audrey doesn't quite fit in Thneedville and paints the back of her house full of colorful trees which no longer exist. She longs to see a real tree and Ted becomes determined to find one for her. During dinner one night, Ted's Grammy Norma (Betty White) tells Ted that in order to find out what happened to the trees and if there's another one to be found, he needs to speak with the Once-ler (Ed Helms) who lives outside the city walls. Ted has never been outside the city, but sets out on a mission to meet the Once-ler and find a tree. He succeeds in finding the creature on the edge of town and the Once-ler tells Ted his story of how he started life off as an industrious, young man with a heart who just wanted to be a success, how he found a valley of paradise, and how he met The Lorax (Danny Devito). Before the story is through, the Once-ler's tale will merge with Ted's and perhaps revive the valley again.
Visually, THE LORAX is stunning. Both the natural beauty of the paradise valley and the plastic artificiality of Thneedville are full of bright and beautiful colors. These are contrasted by the present day greys of the world outside of Thneedville, the world that the Once-ler created.
The story stays fairly close to Dr. Seuss' original tale. However, there are a few differences. The Once-ler isn't a creature that's only seen by his hands, but instead has been transformed into a thin and tall man. When we first see the young Once-ler, there are distinct feelings of sympathy for him and empathy with his plight. It's hard to believe this industrious man will be responsible for cutting down all the Truffula Trees, but the temptations of family and fortune are strong. There are a couple of scenes in the forest that are added to pad the story. Also, instead of leaving at different times, the animals of the forest leave together in a mass exodus. Personally, I thought this element weakened the story.
Like the book, there is a strong conservationist message to THE LORAX, but I didn't see any anti-capitalistic undertones. The Once-ler is "punished" not because he was industrious and wanted to earn a living, but because he gave in to greed and destroyed the very thing that was allowing him to earn a living. Mr. O'Hare, the Mayor of Thneedville isn't a villain because he's a businessman, but because he's manufactured his fortune based upon a lie and even when confronted with the truth, he refuses to concede.
There's a lot of music in THE LORAX that comes in a variety of styles, folk, rock-a-billy, and some Broadway-type showtunes. Personally, I liked the smaller numbers which are mostly sung by the Once-ler (Ed Helms).
THE LORAX has broad appeal. It's a film that kids will enjoy for the characters and bright scenery, while many adults will enjoy for some of the subtle bits of humor. The mass consumerism message isn't as blatant as in WALL-E, but it's still there. Overall, it's a movie that The Lorax himself would probably enjoy watching.