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Relive your love of Suess with “The Lorax”

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Wednesday, March 7, 2012

“The Lorax” is a hit with music and Seussian charm.

It’s hard to adapt Dr. Seuss to the big screen. Jim Carrey’s 2000 film “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” taught us that. But Universal’s “The Lorax” does not follow in that mold. It is funny and engaging, with all of Dr. Seuss’s wit. It’s even a musical, to boot.

The film’s plot adds another storyline to Seuss’s book. Ted Wiggins (Zac Efron) is a young boy living in Thneed-Ville desperate to impress Audrey (Taylor Swift), whose life dream is to see a real tree. Thneed-Ville is a walled city, made entirely of plastic. Even their air is manufactured, but Audrey has seen pictures of Truffula Trees and now she wants to see the real thing.

Lovestruck, Ted heads outside the city limits to visit the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who his grandma says has answers about the trees. Over the course of a few visits, the Once-ler tells Ted the story of the Lorax (Danny DeVito) and the disappearance of all the Truffula Trees, for which he is responsible.

Ted must sneak out of Thneed-Ville each time he wants to visit the Once-ler, though. The mayor, Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle), does not approve of Ted’s adventures and he threatens Ted to stop, even sending his large security guards against the young boy. But none of this deters Ted on his mission to find a Truffula Tree for Audrey.

The Once-ler ends his story to Ted with the inspirational moral left by the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.” Ted then takes the last Truffula Seed, and he brings it to Thneed-Ville so that he can plant it and bring the trees back.

Despite Mr. O’Hare’s best attempts, Ted is successful. Truffula Trees return, and he wins the girl.

The story is predictable, and not just because it is based off a beloved children’s book. But that doesn’t make the film any less engaging and enjoyable. There is a new plotline to explore and the musical numbers take the film to another level. The animation captures the original heart and soul of Seuss’s characters.

Danny DeVito as the Lorax is spot-on casting. It’s easy to imagine actually playing the role, rocking a huge mustache. He is grumpy, plays tricks on the Once-ler and makes ridiculous comments, but his actions have a point, to speak for the forest and save the trees. He and his adorable woodland friends tug at the audience’s heartstrings as they see the forest they love destroyed around them.

But the best part of the movie is the music. The trailers gave no indication of the fantastic numbers, so they come as a bit of a surprise. However, they kept the magic and spirit of Seuss’s book alive. For this reason, Helms is perfect for the role of the Once-ler, as he has proven on “The Office” he has musical chops.

But the best song in the movie actually does not feature Helms. Efron and Swift take the reins on “Let It Grow,” using music to convince the inhabitants of Thneed-Ville to get behind Ted’s Truffula Tree plan. According to Audrey, Thneed-Ville needs to “let it grow, let it grow, you can’t reap what you can’t sow. Plant a seed inside the earth, just one way to know what it is worth.” Even 3-year-old Marie gets in on the song, making for a touching moment.

And while the movie obviously has a message about the environment, it doesn’t smack you over the head repeatedly, making you feel like you’re being preached at. There’s more to the story and you will leave the theater moved, not annoyed.

This film is worth the trip to theaters, even if you only want to relive your childhood love of Seuss. You’ll remember why you memorized the story as a child and want to head right back into the next showing.