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Dr Seuss' The Lorax - Film Review

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by Matt Elliot Taylor (subscribe)
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon
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With the Easter Holidays approaching, it only makes sense for family-friendly movies to hit the big screen. The first cab off the rank for Easter 2012 is the animation favourite Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.

In this adaptation of the 1971 short story by the famous children's author Dr. Seuss, the people of Thneedville live within walled off surroundings where everything is artificial; even oxygen is sold in bottles. Young and lively Ted (Zac Efron) is trying to win the heart of the very pretty Audrey (Taylor Swift) and learns that she wishes to see a real tree; something Thneedville does not provide.

Ted learns from his Grandma (Betty White) that once upon a time Thneedville had real trees that sends Ted on a journey to speak to the mysterious Once-ler (Ed Helms) who lives outside the city walls in a desolate wasteland. The Once-ler's story is then told through flashbacks of how he came to harvest all the trees for their multi-purpose material Thneed despite warnings from the antagonising guardian of the forest; the titular Lorax (Danny DeVito), a quirky orange creature that tries to save the environment from the Once-ler.

While this is essentially a children's story with many childish jokes, it can easily be enjoyed by the whole family; there are some lovely one-liners and some adorable-looking characters to fill some of the monotonous gaps where it may become a little boring despite its very short runtime (80 minutes). But the frank overtness of the social message of the story the importance of the environment and preserving it may prove to be a distracting influence on the film's tone for anyone over the age of twelve. For this, it will strongly divide audiences depending on their feelings towards the environment; anti-environmental groups will accuse it of indoctrinating children, for example.

The Once-ler (Ed Helms) tells the story of The Lorax.

The characters are interesting, with the identity of the Once-ler being kept concealed in the present as he tells the story all for the sake of a joke at the end, but nonetheless effective. Ted and Audrey would make an adorable young couple, and Ted's Grandma is charmingly funny thanks to an energetic voicing from comedian Betty White.

The Lorax himself is not actually seen until 20-30 minutes into the film (apart from his introduction at the beginning), so it feels a little odd throwing him in where his presence is sort of insignificant for much of the story; only at the end does it make sense as to why the story itself is called The Lorax only older audience members will get this. Most animation films are also visually and technically spectacular whereas this film strips it all away and just becomes about the story which is an interesting approach, but when the story becomes a little bogged down in places there's nothing to keep the film visually interesting.

The Lorax (Danny DeVito) and his forest friends stand up to The Once-ler.

This is the second Dr Seuss adaptation, and it vastly expands on his original story but in a strong effort to attain the social message, it tries very hard to make every facet of the story relevant to the moral of the story, which is why it might irritate older audiences a little. But from the team responsible for Despicable Me [2010] and the first Dr Seuss adaptation Horton Hears A Who! [2008] some delightful chuckles can be expected.

Dr Seuss' The Lorax is kind of a hit-and-miss in terms of interest, and although it's all too clear about its message on the environment, there are some wonderful moments. This is a children's story on the surface, but if you dig deep enough you'll find it working for most audiences, particularly Dr Seuss fans; after all, everyone enjoys Dr Seuss right?

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Why? Teach the kids the importance of the environment
When: In Cinemas April 1st (Aus)
Where: Your local cinema
Cost: Check your local cinema for details
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