Cinema With Sharlette: 'The Lorax'

Universal Pictures

Another Dr. Seuss classic is adapted for the silver screen by the producers that brought you Despicable Me and Horton Hears a Who!

In the 3D-CG version of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, we focus on Ted Wiggins, a 12-year-old boy in search of a living tree for the girl he adores. His search leads him to the outer parts of his hometown, Thneedville, where he meets the mysterious Once-ler.

It is here that Ted learns the story of the The Lorax and the facts behind why the outer land is in its desolate state. Living in Thneedville, a town where fake shrubbery and oxygen in plastic bottles are the norm, Ted discovers that planting a real tree may not only lead to getting the girl of his dreams, but a better future for the town.

The original story of The Lorax, which happened to be the late Dr. Seuss' favorite, is slightly different from the film version. With a few new characters and storylines, writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio display an excellent example of what an adapted screenplay should be. Paul and Daurio triumph over the challenge of turning a 72 page children's book into a 90-minute film, while preserving the essence and heart of Seuss' message.

The universal language of anti-greed is prevalent. The Tuffula Trees are the symbol of any object of greed and Seuss’ creation is beautifully revived. The Lorax can be seen in 3D and IMAX-3D, yet the vibrant colors and detailed textures attribute to be visually appealing in any format.

Every member of the talented and well-rounded cast brings something special to their characters. Although this is Zac Efron’s first animated feature, his portrayal of Ted is passionate and captures the youthful spirit of adventure. Betty White as the hip Grammy Norma is a delightful addition to the story; any kid would love to have her as a grandparent. Comedian Rob Riggle gives a memorable performance as Aloysius O’Hare. Riggle plays just enough mean with a side of playfulness as the villain and town millionaire mogul.

Danny Devito as the Lorax is perfect. Very early on, we learn that the Lorax is no fur-ball pushover. Unfortunately, along with the trees, the Lorax becomes underplayed and disappears as the story progresses. The film is entitled, The Lorax, yet the development of this character is lacking.

With the standout performance by Ed Helms, it could have easily been called "The Once-ler." Most notable for his comedic roles in The Hangover and The Office, Helms plays the enigmatic Once-ler. A role, which could have been interpreted with a dark undertone, Helms found the lighter side of the Once-ler. Not only does he crack a few jokes, we even learn that the Once-ler played a mean guitar. Helms performs the character as a young man, an older man, and the singing voice for several solo musical numbers.

The musical talent of Helms may be a surprise, but for Taylor Swift fans, even more surprising is her lack of musical numbers. Swift plays Audrey, the love interest and main drive for Ted’s feat. We hardly see the nature-friendly, carefree painter who’s light is lost in the canvas.

The brilliant minds of Oscar nominated composer John Powell along with lyricist Cinco Paul (executive producer), are responsible for the amazing score and original songs. Along with keeping the Seuss tradition of limerick and anapest, Powell infuses the songs with elements of hip-hop, rock, and blues. The new additions to the classic work well with today’s green and tech savvy kids.

A simple word -- unless -- rounds out the film and shows the relevance of a short story written over forty years ago. The Lorax is sure to be fun and enjoyable for the whole family.