Dr Seuss’ The Lorax
Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda. Voices of Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White G cert, general release, 86 min
WAY BACK in early spring, when this tolerable family animation was released in the US, certain right- wing lunatics complained that it was pushing left-wing green propaganda at blameless kiddies. The adaptation of a Dr Seuss classic is, you see, concerned with a town where all the trees have been replaced by machines. A young fellow journeys from the unhappy place to hear how commerce stripped the area of its natural beauty. That’s right. Caring for the environment now makes you a communist.
Anyway, there are good reasons to be suspicious of The Lorax, but none of them have to do with its politics. The film-makers have gutted the project of almost all
the anarchic oddness that makes Dr Seuss’s work so enduringly delightful. Most of the verse is gone. The characters have had all their knobbly bits removed. The buildings, no longer lodgings on a weird planet, have taken on the quality of suburban dwellings in outer Phoenix. One doesn’t want to get too hoity-toity, but its almost as if the studio is on the side of the conformist tree annihilators.
Let us, however, attempt to treat the thing fairly. As mainstream, computer-generated family films go, The Lorax is by no means a disgrace.
Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, directors of the properly hilarious Despicable Me, know about comic timing and draw some very decent voicework from Danny DeVito as the eccentric Lorax. The songs are just about catchy enough to justify their presence, and the message of the film – for us Marxists, anyway – can’t be faulted.
Still, this combination of talents seemed to promise something much more diverting. It’s a mystery. Over the last decade, film-makers have consistently made a mess of Dr Seuss. After the debacles that were The Cat in the Hat and The Grinch, we should be grateful that The Lorax doesn’t actually cause extreme nausea. That’s not really enough, though.