Film review: The Lorax

GRAEME TUCKETT
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2012
lorax

NEEDS CUTTING: Gorgeous graphics can't save the padded-out adaptation of Dr Seuss' The Lorax.

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REVIEW: The Lorax (G) (86min)

Starring Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift.

Directed by Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda.

Maybe, just maybe, if you're not familiar with Theodor Seuss Geisel's (Dr Seuss) book, you'll find a lot to like about this all-animated 3-D adaptation. It's possible, perhaps even likely, that you'll be wowed by the gorgeous graphics, entertained by the casting, and impressed by the endless wit and invention of the script.

It's possible. I acknowledge that. The Lorax is, after all, from the same creative team as Despicable Me, and that was an animated kids film that I absolutely flat out loved every second of.

But, if you're a Seuss fan(atic), and if you revere near every word he wrote, then...nah. This is just another cynical and vaguely tasteless attempt to get Seuss onto film. A couple of years back, Horton Hears a Who!  was done pretty well. The makers of that film knew to stick as closely as possible to the text, to not pollute the original story with too many superfluous characters, to instruct their cast not to shout the lines unless that was clearly called for by the original text, and to retain Seuss's elegant pacing. But go back another few years and you'll collide with a sickening thud into Jim Carrey's desecration of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and Mike Myer's abduction and murder of The Cat in The Hat.

So those of us who care too much about these things are pretty trepidacious about stumping up at the multiplex with our $16, scared that yet another Seuss classic is about to be ruined before our eyes. And to be fair, this Lorax fares a lot better than did the Grinch or The Cat. There are moments and scenes up on the screen that are recognisably based on the book, and the wizardry of 21st century animation at least means that Seuss' unmistakeable illustration style can be done a small amount of justice.

But the story, which takes no more than 15 or 20 minutes to read to a gaggle of children, is expanded to an hour and a half. And to do this, the writers have, well, ruined it basically. Whereas the book is a simple, quite dark, and enormously poignant warning of the dangers that big business can pose to the environment, this treatment sidelines Seuss' heartfelt message, and replaces it with a far more anodyne one about ''being yourself'', and not being swayed by peer-pressure. The environmental message is still there, but it's sidelined and all but buried under wise-cracking lead characters, endless action and chase sequences, and that irritating and pointless disease that afflicts nearly every director of a 3-D film; whereby they are overcome by the desire to include a ''look at the 3-D!'' moment in every single goddamned scene.

Look, it's spectacular, fast moving, probably perfect for any sugar-high 6 year olds in your life, and, in Danny DeVito's voicing of the Lorax himself, contains at least one genuinely great performance. But it's not Dr Seuss. Not for more than 15 or 20 of its 86 minutes anyway.

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