by Matt Smith
Oh how I wanted to love The Lorax. With some great voice acting and absolutely gorgeous animation, and based on a great Dr. Seuss book, I wanted it to be as great as I imagined. Alas, like all other Seuss adaptations that weren’t made for television some thirty or forty-odd years ago, it’s a complete disappointment. Well, except for the animation itself, which I mentioned already looks fantastic. But more on that later.
No, the simple tale of a man who cuts down all the trees, provoking the mystical creature of the Lorax to manifest and try to make him leave the forest alone, turns out to be much more convoluted and over-long that it needs to be. That story–the heart of the film and the entirety of the book–is intercut as a flashback with a kid (Ted) trying to win the heart of a girl (Audrey) in the town of Thneedville, which would cease to exist without the constant purchase of canned and bottled air which has become a multi-billion dollar industry and created a diminutive monster of a man (Mr. O’Hare) who runs the town with an iron fist. Naturally, the evil corporate overlord doesn’t want the kid to learn about trees (or find a seed and plant it for his love) because he’s made so much money off of their nonexistence.
This leads to a final chase scene through the town (of course), and a lot of so-called intrigue which finds our hero/boy attempting to evade capture and sneak the seed back inside the walls of Thneedville. And there are musical numbers. A lot more than there need to be. All of this results in a film that is so long and so boring that even typing the plot out right now has nearly put me to sleep.
The musical sequences in particular are to blame for a large portion of the film’s slow, boring pace. They literally stop the narrative progression for absolutely no reason, filling the soundtrack with modern Broadway-style rock/orchestral combo fusion. With genuinely stupid lyrics that serve no purpose (“Everyone needs a thneed!” backed by awful electric guitar solos) and music that is just about as bland and monotonous as one can imagine, I find it hard to believe the producers even bothered to pay someone their fee for writing it. The heyday of Disney and Alan Menken this most certainly is not.
And that’s really a great sin, because the animation, produced by Illumination Entertainment and overseen by Chris Renaud, the studio and one of the directors behind the amazing Despicable Me, is really something to behold. It perfectly captures the whimsical spirit of the original Dr. Seuss illustrations. The colors are bold and wonderful, character design and rendering is rounded and smooth, and the environments, from the town of Thneedville to the barren wasteland which surrounds it, are wonderfully realized. There’s no reason that young kids won’t like this movie’s visuals, totally overwhelmed at every turn, but it’s just not enough to hold the interest of anyone over the age of 7 or so.
Which is a shame, because the source material is so good, and the animation so flawless and fluid, that this film should be one of the best animated films this year. Sadly, it’s not. It’s a bloated, meandering mess. Just go watch Winnie the Pooh or Fantastic Mr. Fox on Blu-Ray for the umpteenth time and save your money on this outing.
2 out of 5 stars – for the animation