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The Independent Critic

Danny DeVito, Betty White, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle
Chris Renaud, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Kyle Balda
Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Dr. Seuss
Rated PG
94 Mins.
Universal Pictures/IMAX
audio commentary track with co-directors Chris Renaud & Kyle Balda. Three mini-movies that expand the story of "The Lorax." "Wagon Ho!" (3:10) f, "Forces of Nature" (2:14) "Serenade" (3:19) with two bar-ba-loots vying for the affections of a female. Making of the Mini-Movies (3:31) featurette. O'Hare TV is a viewing option with pop-up ads for O'Hare Air. Expedition to Truffula Valley is an overly complicated interactive menu that accesses storyboard art, animatics, and video featurettes, including chunks of the Seuss It Up drawing tutorial available on the DVD.Seuss to Screen (4:27) features interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss translating the original story to the big screen. Rounding out the bonus material is the Let It Grow Sing-Along, a deleted scene involving the thneeds, and three games (The Once-Ler's Wagon, Get Out of Town, Truffula Run).

 "The Lorax" Review 
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The problem with producing a film based upon the works of Dr. Seuss is that one hopes for, if not expects, the final product to at least come close to reaching the greatness of Seuss. These expectations have led to woefully disappointing results, such as in The Cat in the Hat, and results that simply felt muted when compared to their source material, such as in Horton Hears a Who.

The Lorax
is neither as disappointing as The Cat in the Hat nor as successful as Horton Hears a Who. The Lorax is simply a solidly entertaining kiddie flick with a message that somehow feels disappointing when one ponders the darkness, the wonder and the brilliance of Dr. Seuss's original material. The Lorax is vividly brought to life while also being incredibly embellished in order to hold the attention of its youngest moviegoers. This isn't necessarily a horrid thing, simply a disappointing condescension that Pixar and Studio Ghibli have consistently proven to be unnecessary.

As is similar to the book, The Lorax is largely told in flashback fashion with our story beginning with 12-year-old Ted (Zac Efron) figuring out how to woo his crush, Audrey (Taylor Swift), in the town of Thneedville. Audrey has but one wish, to see a real live tree. The problem is that Thneedville, with the exception of its inhabitants, is a land of artificial with no trees to be found. Ted sets out to discover the story behind the absence of trees from the Once-Ler (Ed Helms) and why The Lorax (Danny DeVito), known as he who "speaks for the trees," left the area. Ted's visits don't go unnoticed, however, as Mr. O'Hare (Rob Riggle), a man who makes his living off the absence of trees and is mayor, warns him to stay away from the Once-Ler.

Explaining a film based upon Dr. Seuss's source material is most challenging. After all, how does one truly explain Dr. Seuss? Seuss's 41-year-old story is fairly well known at this point as an entertaining yet rather dark ecological disaster tale, and while the quartet of directors constructing the film have remained faithful to the theme they've also sped up the material and added a musical soundtrack that may leave purists scratching their heads. What's most captivating about The Lorax is its color palette, a palette that features a vibrancy that is nothing short of mesmerizing and awesome to watch even if the 3-D doesn't quite justify the extra expense.

While most of the changes that have been made to the story are tolerable, those who remember Seuss's imagery of the Once-ler may be bothered by the very tangible humanity he's afforded here. While it may make it easier for kids to identify with the story, there's something about it that feels unsatisfying and even a bit jarring when compared with the source material.

The Lorax has been put together by the same folks who gave us the unexpected hit Despicable Me, but it definitely doesn't succeed on that film's level. The music, and there's an abundance of it, is largely nondescript with the exception of a catchy "How Bad Can I Be?," a fun little tune that will likely be the only one to stick with you once you've left the theater.

Yes, I can picture kids singing it for days on end. Be prepared.

The vocal cast is strong across the board, most especially Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and the always awesome Rob Riggle. Betty White adds another awesome grandma to her repertoire, even if this one does just so happen to be animated.

Perhaps it is impossible, but it just seems like yet again a film based upon the Seuss material really doesn't quite capture the essence of the writings upon which it is based. The Lorax is destined to be bashed by some who will be massively disappointed in the ways in which it falls short of Seuss's writing, but those who can simply accept the film at face value are likely to be much more satisfied. In fact, it's hard to imagine children not enjoying the film even if they aren't necessarily humming the tunes as the exit the theater. We may have wanted or expected more, but The Lorax is a good film and a visual feast that should have no trouble winning its opening weekend's box-office crown.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic