The Lorax (DVD/Blu-Ray) – Dir. Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda. Starring Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito.
The expansion of Dr. Seuss’s bite-sized children’s stories into feature-length films is a patently bad idea—a creative wasteland from which no survivors have emerged. And yet it’s hard to imagine why these films have to be quite as bad as this.
At 72 pages, The Lorax is a relatively weighty tome by Seussian standards, perhaps better suited to adaptation than most. But it still contains a grand total of three characters and a story that can be effectively summarized in two sentences. (Here it is: a boy travels to a strange recluse’s home to learn of what happened to something called “The Lorax.” He finds out that the recluse and his family chopped down all the area’s trees despite the warnings of The Lorax, a guardian of the forest, and devastated the environment). The book’s remaining bulk is colorful descriptions through a lot of conveniently rhyming made-up words.
Some padding was required to make a movie. The boy was given a name (“Ted Wiggins”) and a back-story. The town he lives in is fleshed out.
But what begins as padding quickly becomes bloating: an incontinent flood of irrelevant and obnoxious content. An entirely new villain is invented. The Once-ler, the cryptic green creature who narrates the story, becomes an upbeat youth with an electric guitar. A story whose entire appeal was its quiet—some might say dark—poignancy is drowned in flashing colors, dance numbers, and nonstop noise in a desperate and tragic underestimation of children’s attention spans. To avoid any awkward moments of thought or reflection during which audience members might become distracted by their bellybuttons, emotion is instructed with sad piano chords backing the occasional scene designated as “sad.”
The story is so expanded, in fact, that its foundation is lost in the haze. Even the purpose of The Lorax (Danny DeVito) to the plot is no longer clear. He complains, he performs some antics, and then he goes away without leaving any lasting imprint on events.
Much of the voice cast, chosen for its star power rather than its suitability to the characters, is jarring and wrong. Zac Efron is about 15 years on the wrong side of puberty for the lead role. Ed Helms, narrating as the aged Once-ler, does just about the worst old man voice in a film since Christopher Lambert in Highlander 2.
Dead-eyed and hyperactive, The Lorax is everything a children’s film shouldn’t be.
Rated PG for snergelly hose and tombulous toes.
1.5 out of 5