IN CINEMAS 27th July
RUNNING TIME: 86 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Ted Wiggins, an idealistic 12-year-old boy, lives in “Thneed-Ville”, a walled city that, aside from the citizens, is completely, perfectly, artificial: everything is made of plastic, metal, or synthetics. Ted sets out to find the one thing that will win him the affection of Audrey, the girl of his dreams, who wishes to see a real tree . Ted’s energetic grandmother suggests he speak with the Once-ler on the matter, and he discovers that their city has been closed off from the outside world, which is a contaminated and empty wasteland. The Once-ler agrees to tell Ted about the trees if he listens to his story over multiple visits. Ted agrees, even after the mayor of Thneed-Ville Aloysius O’Hare confronts the boy and pressures him to stay in town. Over the visits, the Once-ler recounts the story of how he met The Lorax, a grumpy yet charming orange creature who served as guardian of the land he arrived in……
I am going to admit and confess that I have never read any of the many children’s stories by Dr Seuss, but am certainly aware of their imagination, their clever rhyming and ability of get positive messages through to children. I have also seen all the previous films based on Seuss’s tales and found them most entertaining. Therefore it was almost a given that I would find The Lorax, which is the second computer animated adaptation of Seuss following Horton Hears A Who!, very appealing. The Lorax, which actually follows a 1972 live action TV version, has already had many complaints from Seuss fans about alterations. It’s also totally and utterly unashamedly environmentalist, which seems to have already annoyed some of the more conservative reviewers around, which is silly, because even if you’re not very ‘green’, this is an extremely inventive cartoon which is thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end, something that is typical of the output of Blue Sky Studios [Despicable Me, Ice Age, the much underrated Robots]. I will say that I didn’t see this in 3D, as I’m not a fan of the format, and it was visually exciting enough in 2D!
Right from the outset this is an extremely bright film, with bilious colours which could make some feel sick but which I loved and will certainly keep the younger viewers glued to the screen. Initially seeming like a weird variation on The Truman Show, it adroitly shows an ignorant, consumerist and artificial society which is not that far removed from our own before taking us to a totally different world that is just around the corner, a barren wasteland. The structure of the film from thereo is perhaps a little awkward; about half of the rest of it is the Once-ler’s story he tells to Ted and when we come out of it every now and again the breaks jar somewhat. Nonetheless, his tale is fascinating and set in the one of the most wondrous fantasy lands I’ve seen in ages, with absolutely gorgeous colours, friendly animals that most certainly are cute, and trees that look like candyfloss. Of course the environmentalist message is soon brought to the fore. I personally feel that it’s important to educate children about stuff like the importance of preserving nature [and even photosynthesis is explained in this film!], which has been a major staple of anime for decades, though if you don’t believe mankind is destroying our world some of The Lorax will undoubtedly grate.
The filmmakers have obviously realised this and fill the film with chuckles ; I especially loved the Lorax’s method of waking somebody up by rubbing two bears together and touching the sleeper with the electric shocks this produces, and of course there’s a big action climax which is one of the most inventive vehicle chases in ages. There are also some songs, making The Lorax a musical, something the trailer did not reveal. The songs are good rather than great and seem to be deliberately cheesy, especially the one near the end, a clever choice because it means that if you ‘going’ with the film and its sincere message than you can ‘go with’ the songs too, and if not you can just laugh at the cheese but enjoy it all the same. John Powell’s score, by the way, is one of the best to come from this veteran of animated films. For a start, it’s just amazing to find a composer who likes to write actual tunes these days.
The Lorax adds a couple of villains to the original story and some might say they are unnecessary but allow the filmmakers to make some timely and perfectly valid attacks on big business. The film isn’t subtle at all about what its saying and that is one of the reasons I liked it so much. There’s a ‘cool’ grandmother character who isn’t quite as funny as the writers think she is but the gruff but charming Lorax is wonderful and a perfect role for Danny De Vito; you can almost see the actor acting out the part. Somehow the animators convey the hurt in his eyes as trees are chopped down. Paced very fast, yet not seeming rushed, The Lorax is a fine cinematic fantasy which has been cleverly designed so that even the youngest of children can assimilate much of it, yet has ingredients that almost everyone can enjoy and is certainly off-the-wall enough to appeal to some adults who want to see something a little different. Sometimes supposed ‘children’s films’ are more ‘out there’ than some adults realise. Sometimes they’re also the best for getting messages across. From my point of view, The Lorax may be indoctrinating young people, and perhaps goes too far in showing capitalism as evil, but I do agree with most of it.