“The Lorax,” published 40 years ago, is the story of the Once-ler, who, in his haste to make a million, chops down all the Truffula trees that provided the material he needed to make his Thneeds, which seem to be a bit of a useless item that everyone needs. The Lorax Speaks for the Trees, and so he does in this movie adaptation, although he sounds a lot like Danny DeVito.
The movie opens not with the Once-ler or Lorax, but with a young teen, Ted, smitten with Audrey. So his desire to seek out the Once-ler is not driven by any need other than to impress the girl. The second act of the film is taken up by the Once-ler’s story. He was once an idealistic young man, and made a deal with the Lorax to leave the Truffula trees alone. But once the demand for Thneeds took off, you better believe that Once-ler didn’t think Twice-ler about clear-cutting the valley for material.
Right-wing pundits have are frothing at the mouth over “The Lorax,” claiming it’s brainwashing kids with an environmental message. I saw something else this time. If the Once-ler had been more careful about production by replanting and keeping some Truffula trees alive, he could have kept his Thneed business operational, instead of going bankrupt by wiping out the trees and leaving a smog-addled, sludge-filled wasteland behind. “The Lorax” is a parable against greed, not just an admonition to never cut down a tree.
But the real bad guy in the film “The Lorax” is the mayor of Thneedville, who also owns a business selling fresh air to the population (where did they get this idea, “Spaceballs?”). The mayor is mean, nasty, and cares not a whit for Truffula trees, seeds, or even the lives of love-struck teenagers.
“The Lorax” recycles (Ha! I made an environmental pun!) elements of “The Truman Show” and “WALL-E” into a needlessly busy movie. I did like the songs, by John Powell, and the 3D rendering is not overwrought. But it’s going to take a real visionary director to truly capture on screen the wonder and slightly dark edge that Seuss brings to the page.