In 1971, the same year that the grass roots environmental group Greenpeace was established, Ted Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, came out with his message-laden yet endearing book called The Lorax. Under the guise of rhyming schemes, a bright color palette (that was a departure from his previous books) and cutesy characters like Bar-ba-loots and Humming Fish, Dr. Seuss helped open up a generation’s eyes to the severe consequences of not protecting our environment. Deep themes of greed, regret and redemption also played into this thought-provoking children’s book and helped pave the way for the environmental movement that was just about to surge.
Not only was he a clever wordsmith and talented artist, but Ted Geisel was also a passionate activist who wanted to make a difference. And he did. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the very next year, the United States passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Now, over forty years later, the messages of The Lorax are still relevant, if not more-so, and the film making team of Christopher Melandandri and Chris Renaud (Despicable Me & Horton Hears A Who), have out done themselves by bringing this Seuss masterpiece to the big screen and reigniting the spark behind its message.
With guidance and supervision from Ted Geisel’s widow, Audrey, The Lorax filmmakers were able to stay true to the imagery and magical quality of the book while also coming up with back, middle and end story lines. The writing team of Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio ingeniously filled in the gaps, creating a perfectly plastic Thneedville filled with happy, clueless locals breathing in manufactured air. They also found a way of explaining how the little boy, named Ted & played by Zac Efron, ended up at the base of the Once-ler’s crooked Lerkim asking about the lifted Lorax.
From the very first flicker film, projected in 3-D, I felt a part of this colorful, fantasy world. And, being a lover of all things Broadway, I almost did a hitch-kick in my chair when no more than five minutes into the movie, the townfolk of Thneedville burst into a musical number that could stand up to the likes of Sondheim and Gershwin.
There was nothing in the trailers or the marketing materials to clue me in to the musical aspect of the movie, and with five musical numbers in the film, I would say it’s a big part of the movie, also one of the most enjoyable. In the press junket interview, we asked the filmmakers about why they incorporated so much music. They explained that since The Lorax is somewhat of a somber tale, “the music felt like a way to deliver that message . . . and keep it entertaining and light so the audience doesn’t turn off.” Big kudos to them because that is precisely how it came across. The music turned the dark & heavy into light and airy, allowing the audience to introspectively think about the message without feeling like we were being beaten over the head.
To round out this fantastically fun film, was the perfectly-cast cast of voices. There could be no one better in the world than Danny DeVito for the role of the curmudgeonly, loveable Lorax, and not just because of the resemblance, though that helps. DeVito’s voice has a certain quality to it that commands attention, gets you to laugh and then keeps you holding on for what’s going to happen next. He’s a genius in his own height, I mean right.
Ed Helms of The Office and Hangover fame, plays both the young and the old Once-ler with a deft balance of sweet and bitter. You want to love him and you want to hate him, all in the same breath, which is a huge testament to his novice voice-over skills. And? He gets to show off his banjo playing skills in this movie. Score!
In order to tell the backstory of how Ted ends up at the base of Once-ler’s home, the filmmakers developed a love interest, aptly named Audrey, who is played by the uber-sweet Taylor Swift. I was disappointed that Taylor didn’t have her own song in the film, but her talking voice is as much like butter as her singing voice so audiences are going to fall in love with her even more, if that’s even possible.
Ted’s rabble-rousing Granny Norma, played to perfection by the spunky Betty White, is a highlight of the film. With her Truffula Tuft hair do and removable dentures, she is a scene stealer to be sure. She also helps save the day by helping Ted sneak out of Thneedville to track down the creepy Once-ler. After the film opens, I won’t be surprised to see a “We Want Ganny Norma to Host Saturday Night Live” Facebook page making headlines.
My new favorite comedic character actor is Rob Riggle who plays the greedy, villian O’Hare. You may not recognize his name, yet, as his credits have been mostly supporting roles, like Officer Franklin in The Hangover and Randy in Step Brothers, but this funny guy will be a household name in no time. His character is a bit reminiscent of the stumpy, grumpy Lord Faarquad in Shrek, and represents the evil side of consumerism and capitalism. His hair alone will make you laugh.
This ninety-four minute animated escapade is sure to delight the entire family. There is action, comedy (both for kids and adults), romance, adventure, music and of course, a message. I left the theatre with a kick in my step and a renewed vigilance towards being green.
I give this film 4 ½ out of 5 fist pumps!
Side note: Though the film is mild and very kid-friendly, it received a PG rating, probably because the chase scenes with O’Hare’s thugs are a bit intense, as is the messaging, but overall, it’s a fun, family-friendly film.
The awesome folks at Universal have given us a Lorax prize-pack to giveaway to one luck winner. To enter, please leave a comment telling me one way that you and your family stay green. Contest ends on Wednesday, February 29th at 11:59 pm PST. Winner will be announced on Thursday, March 1st.
- $50 Fandango Gift Card
- Water Bottle
- Lunch Bag
- Activity Sheet
- Truffula Tree Pencils
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax opens in theaters on Friday, March 2nd. Here’s a sneak peek.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, a Superbowl party and a free lunch at the press junket in exchange for this post. All opinions are mine, though Danny DeVito was very intimidating in his interview. Just Kidding. More on Danny later this week. Stay tuned.
Congratulations to our giveaway winner, Lauri! This contest is now closed.