Tuesday, March 06, 2012

THE LORAX - A Voice For The Trees

Dr SEUSS' THE LORAX (animated fantasy)
Cast: Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White and Rob Riggle   
Director: Chris Renaud
Screenplay: Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul, based on the book by Dr. Seuss
Time: 90 mins
Rating: *  *  1/2  (out of 4)

The Once-ler and Lorax surrounded by Bar-Ba-Loots in Truffula Valley

PREAMBLE: The Lorax may hold the interest and awe of the younger children for the first 30 minutes or so of the movie - before restlessness sets it. For adults, it is an unabashed propaganda for Dr Seuss' tree-hugging ideals and against the evils of excesses and capitalism. From the trailers I saw on TV in the US, I was quite impressed by its characters (just as I was with those of John Carter), but Dr Seuss' The Lorax, which was padded up with subplots, gimmicks and songs, is not as compelling as I had expected it to be.

Ted (Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift)

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Based on the 1971 book, the Lorax (amiably voiced by Danny DeVito) is a fuzzy orange creature who speaks for the trees. The story is set in the town of Thneedville where nothing natural exists any more. Trees are artificial and water and air come in plastic bottles.

When our young hero Ted (short for Theodor Geisel, Seuss' real name, and voiced by Zac Efron) learns that the girl of his dreams (Taylor Swift as Audrey) wants to see a real-life Truffula tree, he sets out to find one. The quest, suggested by his grandma (Betty White), takes him on a dangerous and forbidden trip outside the city walls to talk with The Once-ler (Ed Helms), a mysterious figure who is the only one who knows what happened to the environment.

Ted is told the story of The Once-ler’s invention of the Thneed, an object that can be used to do anything, and his battle with The Lorax, a small orange creature who speaks for the trees. Ted's trips outside the city are noticed by Mr O'Hare (Rob Riggle), the tycoon who sells fresh air and whose business depends on a tree-less environment. O'Hare makes it clear to Ted that visits to The Once-ler will not be tolerated...  

HITS & MISSES: Like in the 2008 Horton Hears A Who, the animation here is excellent. What I quibble about is the way Dr Seuss' tale is being transformed and padded up. Indeed, at the beginning of this 3D film, DeVito's Lorax steps out in front of the screen to warn that "there's more to this story than what's on the page." Besides the subplots, there are some wonderful and entertaining creatures, especially the Bar-baloots and Humming Fish. The songs are rather forgetful except for the cheerful number Let It Grow.

Despite espousing conservation and the love of trees, this effort directed by Chris Renaud does little to promote the beauty of nature or the idyllic wonders of natural living. Even in the opening number, we see the people of the artificial town of Thneedville perfectly happy with their plastic world. Ted, the protagonist, ventures out into the unknown not because of the need to protect the environment but because he wants to impress a girl! For all intents and purpose, he is happy and contented in his treeless world of Thneedville.

THE LOWDOWN: Another Dr Seuss potion for kids.


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