Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Elongated Truth

The Lorax       WWW Score: 75%

As we've witnessed umpteen times over the past decade, Dr. Seuss books have been popular targets to be turned into films. From 'The Cat In The Hat' to 'Horton Hears a Who', the late Theodor Seuss Geisel's material has been kneaded, massaged and stretched to take motion picture form. One of the good doctor's finest fables, 'The Lorax' finally gets its 3D-CGI movie treatment - the environmental story elongated from 45 pages in book form to an overwrought 94 minutes on screen. Mr. Lorax, I hate to break the news but your half-hour special from the early 70s is more suited to you.

The extended, extended remix begins in Thneed-ville, a town where the only organic things are the human beings. The locals breaking out in song, praising their plethora of faux accoutrements - a bullet aimed directly at gluttonous consumerism. Resident and co-protagonist Ted (Zac Efron) has his heart set on neighbor Audrey (Taylor Swift) but her affection is focused on finding a living tree - not the electric, pulsating ones dotting the streets. In an effort to win her heart, Ted zips outside the city's walls on his motorized unicycle to locate the Once-ler (Ed Helms), the dude responsible for the lack of anything amoebic in Thneed-ville. Thus begins the Once-ler's painfully protracted tale of how his greed got the better of him - eradicating the valley's supply of the fluffy barked beauties to crank out his Thneads. Enter the Lorax and his environmental "speak for the trees" stance - think of him as an orange, mustached Al Gore with Danny DeVito's voice. In book form, the story whisks by, driving home its lesson subtly versus the clobbering-you-over-the-head found in the film.

While touting "from the makers of" usually amounts to nothing more than a pathetic marketing ploy, I must admit, having the team behind the frenetically fantastic 'Despicable Me' involved piqued my interest. Their imprint is clearly evident, the singing fish are "Minion" mimics and the two films' villains share the same goofy qualities and sport similar haircuts. But the whimsical qualities found in 'Despicable Me' are diminished here thanks to stunts like a bizarrely overblown production about corporate greed - it will have you begging for the final note.

Mr. Lorax, with all due respect, I prefer to receive my "save the planet" messages from robots outfitted with cassette decks and trash compactors.