The Lorax (Universal)
Rated PG for brief mild language.
Starring (voices of) Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate.
Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda.
Written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, based on the children's book by Dr. Seuss.
First of all, let me assure you that no trees were killed in the creation of this review. It's all in cyberspace unless you print it, and then you'll be the murderer of trees and you'll have to deal with tree spokesman, The Lorax. The Lorax is a children's book written by Dr. Suess in 1974 about how unbridled industrialism can be harmful to the environment. An animated film adaptation of the book hits theaters today (which is incidentally Theodore Geisel's birthday).
Zac Efron voices a young man named Ted who is enamored with the beautiful Audrey (Taylor Swift). Audrey's passion is real trees, which do not exist in the Seuss world of Thneedville, a place where everything is plastic and artificial, and evil opportunist O'Hare (Rob Riggle) dominates the economy by selling fresh air. Audrey tells Ted she would be likely more attracted to a guy who could give her a real tree. Ted's Grammy (Betty White) tells Ted about a mysterious man named "The Once-ler" who lives outside the closed community and knows the secret of the trees.
Ted breaks out of Thneedville and travels through a vast wasteland dotted by endless dead tree stumps until he finds the home of the Once-ler (Ed Helms). The Once-ler reluctantly tells Ted the story of how he came to forest filled with "Truffala Trees" (which resemble pom-poms on a stick) to find resources needed to develop his idea for a "Thneed" (which resembles some kind of all-purpose sweater). The Once-ler recounts how he chops down a tree, which prompts an encounter with the Lorax (Danny DeVito), a gruff, short, orange fellow who "speaks for the trees." The Lorax enlists the help of other woodland critters to keep tabs on the Once-ler, who promises not to cut down any more trees, and sets out to sell his Thneed.
Things don't go well at first, but eventually the Thneed takes off and the Once-ler enlists family members to help grow his small but successful business. As demand for the Thneed grows, The Once-ler's family pressures him to speed things up by cutting down the Truffalas, rather than harvesting their fuzz. Soon, all the trees are gone, and the Lorax leaves a despondent Once-ler with a lot of guilt and a single Truffala seed.
The Once-ler gives the seed to Ted, who attempts to plant it in the middle of Thneedville, as O'Hare uses all his evil rich resources to prevent it.
The Lorax is a fun movie that kids and parents can enjoy together. Some of the gloom and Apocalyptic themes might go a little over the little one's heads, but the quality animation, musical numbers, and humor will resonate with all ages.
As with most Seuss tales, The Lorax also carries a message. Now, before ideologues from the Right and Left get all worked up over some very real contemporary political-economic issues addressed in the movie, let me suggest what I think the "message" of The Lorax is.
A little background: Theodore Geisel (widowed wife Audrey is a co-executive producer of the film) was a self-proclaimed liberal democrat who relished the idea of writing fictional children stories that illustrated very real socio-political issues (The Sneeches = racism, Horton Hears a Who = global super power isolationism, etc.) Geisel often prided himself on being "subversive" in his method of teaching children real morals while entertaining them with simple stories. In my opinion, his method was brilliant, and should not be seen as a conspiracy to foster liberal agendas, but to allow kids the space needed to make up their own minds on moral issues.
To all my conservative friends who might be led to believe that The Lorax is a slam on all industry, I submit something you may not have considered. Perhaps Seuss was not suggesting all industrialism is bad, but maybe he was saying responsible, sustainable industry and management of resources is good (remember, the Lorax had no problem with the Once-ler's harvesting of the Truffala fuzz).
To all my left-leaning friends, I submit the same. In my opinion, industrialism should not be seen as the enemy itself, nor should all corporations be pigeon-holed into one giant evil masse. No corporation wants to cut off all its resources, and the smarter ones realize this. It's also ironic that no one would be able to enjoy a Seuss book unless a few trees died.
So, enjoy The Lorax, and use it as a method to teach your kids about responsible and actual use of the environment and its resources- without getting all "extreme" about it.