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When Dr.Seuss wrote about a mysterious little creature called the Lorax, one doubts that he imagined he spoke like a gruff New Jersey native. But then, the choice of Danny DeVito to voice the 'shortish, oldish, brownish' character from Theodore Seuss Geisel's 1971 pro-environment children's book is hardly the most confusing thing about it.
Releasing a full two months after it released abroad, Dr.Seuss' The Lorax is the fourth big screen adaptation of the children's literary giant's works to come out of Hollywood over the past decade. While How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) and The Cat In The Hat (2003) were live-action releases, this latest Seussian tale invites comparisons with the remaining release, Horton Hears A Who! (2008), which was a similarly CGI animated feature from Universal, though 'The Lorax' is the first time that Dr.Seuss is going 3D. The film features the same team as 'Horton', with directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, while Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul take up writing duties. However, apart from the technical similarities, there is little that makes 'The Lorax' a worthy follow-up to the hilarious and heart-warming Jim Carrey-Steve Carrell vehicle from four years ago.
Admittedly, Seuss' 1971 tale about the fight between the environment, spoken for by the strange orange, moustachioed creature called the Lorax (Danny DeVito), and an unseen, hidden character called the Once-ler (Ed Helms, of The Hangover), isn't the most popular of his works. But the story, relating the consequences of what might happen in the face of unchecked environmental destruction, does go to show how far ahead of his times the children's writer was. When a young boy chances upon the repentant recluse of a Once-Ler, he learns of how the bare landscape that he lives in was once populated by brilliant, bright Truffula trees, that the scheming Once-Ler cut down against the protestations of the Lorax. It was only after the last Truffula had been cut down, that Once-Ler realised the consequences of what he had done, only to gather the fact that remorse had come too late.
In adapting the cautionary fable to the big screen, however, Renaud, Balda, Daurio and Paul cut out its heart, filling it with superfluous characters and unnecessary, uncharacteristic sight-gags, turning into a cheesy musical and missing out the message in the process. The way the makers go about turning the story into a budding romance between the young boy, Ted (Zac Effron) and the new character, Audrey (Taylor Swift), takes the starkness and simplicity out of the story, as does the addition of the Mayor, Aloysius O'Hare (Rob Riggle), who becomes the needless antagonist in the tale. Hearing the likes of Ed Helms and DeVito flex their baritones for the drop-of-a-hat songs also takes its toll on the viewers, though some of the music, like Helms' 'How Bad Can I Be', and the ensemble 'Let It Grow', definitely take a hold on you.
Where the film does score is in its visuals, which are Seussian and soft as ever, and brings the grim, but colourful world, called 'Thneed-ville' here, to life, in bright, eye-popping designs. Though the film doesn't quite live up to its 3D tag (except for a sequence when the Once-Ler is washed down river rapids), the gentle lines of Seuss' designs do make for a lovely change from the sharpness that the likes of Pixar have gotten us used to.
With little that captures the spirit of Dr.Seuss' original, this too-happy, too-chirpy, too-over-the-top version of Dr.Seuss' The Lorax, makes for a depressing for fans of the book. Catch it for the animation, some music and little else.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars