I remember really loving Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax when I was a kid. My sister even had a little stuffed Lorax toy that I can’t help but think of as being kind of ironic since it was most likely mass produced out of some factory. It’s like buying an American flag that was Made in China. I feel like this movie adaptation of the original story is much the same way as that. It knows that the story is important somehow and that it has to do with not chopping down trees or something but it mostly gets caught up in presenting things that are cute and “fun” and kind of misses the point entirely.
You still have the basic story from the book of The Once-ler that sets up shop in a forest and ends up completely destroying the environment in his desire to make “thneeds” out of the truffula trees. The Lorax tries to tell him to stop but is ultimately ignored. Sadly, the way in which the Lorax gets presented is much less “lone desperate voice pleading for the environment” and more “grumpy doofus that ineffectually makes threats to leave the trees alone”. However, it is the framing around the story that is really goofy.
The other main plot of the movie is that of Ted, a resident of Thneedville that wants to impress Audrey, a girl that is fascinated by trees. There is also the subplot of a greedy businessman that mirrors Once-ler’s story and how he is selling fresh air to the people since the air is normally so foul. The biggest issue I have with this is that the entire conceit of “unless people start to care about the environment, nothing is going to get better” is done through a character that doesn’t actually care and is only doing it to get a girl. If Audrey had been the main character, seeking out the Once-ler and trying to get trees back, that would have made for a much more impactful story than Ted doing all that just so he can get a date. Also, by showing the Once-ler, humanizing him, making him sorry for his deeds, and giving a different and even more cartoonishly evil businessman to contrast him; the movie incidentally ends up making the destruction of an entire habitat seem like a big accident and whoops, didn’t mean to do that and hey at least I’m not that guy, right?
The animation in the film is actually really beautiful and well done and captures the feel of a Seuss book better than a lot of other adaptations have. However, as I mentioned to start, it tends to get caught up in trying to be adorable and focusing on the wrong things. You have a lot of attention in the beginning of the film given over to the cute bear creature things and the fish doing random singing and so on but the animals being forced out of their home is just sort of done and gone in like a couple minutes. Also, the music in the film is, for the most part, awful. There is one good musical number but the rest is a lot of group sing, bland pop type stuff that feels super generic.
One of the other randomly weird things is the timeline of the movie. Everyone in Thneedville has apparently forgotten what trees were when they were chopped down maybe a generation ago. So the parents and grandparents should at least have some recollection of what happened. Anyway, I would give this film a 2 out of 5. It isn’t particularly bad but its inoffensiveness is probably what offends me most.