There are tons of movies out there which point out the ways in which mankind is destroying (or has destroyed) the environment. Most of them are all doom-and-gloom and go really heavy on the guilt, and very few of them have vibrant colors and animals that sing and dance. But Dr. Seuss, and those who turned his book into this most recent version of the movie, apparently realize the value of trying to catch flies with honey (or bears with marshmallows, as the case may be).
The town of Thneedville is a pretty nice place to live, if you don’t mind thick smog and radioactive water and battery-operated trees. But it’s been that way for so long that most people don’t know any other way of life. But Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift) has somehow learned about how things used to be and has become obsessed with seeing the kind of tree that runs on light and dirt rather than Duracell. She just happens to live next door to Ted (Zac Efron) who’s got a serious crush on her and just happens to be in the mood to get wood. His wise Grandma Norma (Betty White) tells him he needs to go see a man called the Once-ler (Ed Helms), and so he makes cautiously ventures out of the city and into the wasteland that is the larger world.
It doesn’t take Ted long to find the Once-ler’s house, but he’s not given a particularly warm welcome. It seems the Once-ler is a recluse and not much of a people person, but he perks up when Ted mentions his quest to find a tree. That’s enough to get the Once-ler to overcome his shyness and start talking, but rather than just tell Ted what he wants to know, he’s intent on telling his whole life story. He talks about how he’d set out into the world to seek his fortune and encountered a natural paradise, full of musical wildlife and beautiful fuzzy trees. He goes on to tell of a creature called the Lorax (Danny DeVito) who is the guardian of the forest and wants to ensure the trees are protected. And eventually we learn how that forest was destroyed and how the world that is came about.
The Lorax really is a film that should be fun for all ages. It’s so light and quick-moving that even the most hardened hippie-hater might be caught off guard and manage a smile or two. It’s not particularly deep, and perhaps its very cartoonish nature allows its eco-message to float by without sinking in (if you’re not already saturated with that message from the countless other attempts to hammer it in), but you’re not likely to get bored or offended by the content.
The movie has a handful of songs that are good enough while you’re watching them, but that aren’t so catchy that you can remember them after the film is over. With The Muppets, I was belting out the songs in my car on the way home, but with The Lorax I can barely remember the topics for the songs, let alone their tunes or lyrics. In fact, fun but forgettable is kind of a good summary for the entire movie.