THE LORAX VS. THNEED-VILLE
Danny DeVito Taylor Swift Rob Riggle Zac Efron Ed Helms Betty White Directed by Chris Renaud PG
By now, several generations of children have been entertained and inspired by the whimsically subversive storybooks of Dr. Seuss. The latest screen adaptation of the good doctor’s work, The Lorax, updates Seuss’ distinctive loose line drawings into a kinetic, candycolored, computer-animated spectacle. The dialogue is totally in the mode of today’s preteens, yet some of the rhyme schemes and much of the spirit is transferred intact. The Lorax is a movie whose message comes brightly wrapped in humor and motion. The illusion of depth conjured by 3-D is well done but not essential to the story.
The setting, Thneed-Ville, represents all that is artificial about modern life. Virtually nothing from nature has survived.
The shrubs are inflatable (and sold at the market) and the battery-powered trees turn color for the seasons at the touch of a remote. The town is dominated by O’Hare Air, a corporation that sells air in plastic bottles marketed through flashy advertising designed to arouse desire by associating consumption with a fun, youthful lifestyle. O’Hare’s pint-size titan (voiced by Rob Riggle) is pleased that the manufacture of plastic bottles pollutes the real air, stimulating sales growth for his product.
Most of Thneed-Ville’s citizens are entirely happy in their brave new world. One of the quiet dissenters is the idealistic redhaired preteen Audrey (Taylor Swift), an art ist
who dreams of living with real trees and vows to marry the first boy who can present her with one. This inspires the lovesick Ted (Zac Efron) to go on a quest that leads to the Once-ler (Ed Helms), whose carelessness created Thneed-Ville, and to the grumpy guardian spirit of nature who has been displaced by the artificiality of modern life, the Lorax (Danny De- Vito).
The story is charmingly told and visualized and adorned with a few clever (and catchy) musical numbers. The Lorax bristles with swift, well-aimed barbs at shiny happy people obsessed with materialism, a culture dominated by advertising and consumption, the shallowness of disengaged religiosity and entrepreneurs without ethics. It’s a message many political candidates in our current election cycle, as well as sitting members of Congress and talk-radio vultures, will condemn as distressingly left wing. Then again, those are probably the people who never read Dr. Seuss when they were kids.