Take note haters, The Lorax isn’t live action and it doesn’t star Mike Meyers. On that level, Universal’s take on the Dr. Seuss classic is a winner.
Haters, on the other hand, are probably right about whatever else. Lorax was seemingly conceived to give a Fox News anchor an aneurism, preaching endlessly about the evils of corporate America, endless riches, and business tycoons. In their place is the wonder of a tree.
Thneedville is consumerism gone awry, a place where everything is plastic and air is sold in bottles. Mr O’Hare (voiced by Rob Riggle) is gleeful that introducing additional smog into his city would increase demand for his air products, but what’s odd is that Thneedville looks sparkling clean. Skies are brilliant blues, faux grass is a a shiny green, and trees are artificially alive with powered light. One would suspect a world this oppressed would be downtrodden and burdened.
Instead, it’s the walls outside of the city that appear devastated. Ted (Zac Efron) ventures out in search of trees, and ends up finding the Dr. Seuss story. He effectively runs into it, or rather the Once-ler (Ed Helms), a mysterious, green gloved figure living with the regret of his actions. The Oncer-ler came up with the world’s greatest invention despite glaring stares from the tree-protecting Lorax (Danny DeVito), that super invention crafted from the head of colorful, furry trees.
Some of these adaptations fill the gaps in short stories well; Lorax isn’t one of them. Most of the songs feel placed for Oscar contention, not to forward the story. The young Once-ler goes on an appallingly forced spiel about his riches called, “How Bad Can I Be,” wherein he expresses confusion over why it’s detested that he’s rich. Her turns into a Godzilla-like towering figure, stomping and throwing a temper tantrum. Interspersed are clips of sad or kicked animals, venturing away from home with uncertain futures. Most of those elements could be set to Sarah McLachlan tunes, serving as an ad for the ASPCA.
Fitted with 3D effects of questionable use or purpose and celebrity voices that seem to bring out the human more than the characters, Lorax is clumsy as it is forced. There’s nothing wrong with supporting the planet so much as there is never finding a sense of balance between good and bad. Lorax would be serviceable, even passable, if ever got in on the ground floor. Entertainment value is sapped from the writing ensuring the message is across the port bow instead of one-liners or clever zingers.
Lorax avoids the series of pop culture gags that would date the feature, which is something to take note of. But, if nothing else, it shows that these animated pieces rely on them, because there’s nothing left in the tank if they’re not spoofing the latest teen pop star (just putting them in starring roles).
You don’t need a reveal of the natural forest to soak up what The Lorax has to offer. Thneedville is plenty impressive on its own. It’s no wonder people warmed up to plastic bushes, giving off a dense green aura that is nothing if not spectacular. Homes are painted with stern primaries and clothing doesn’t exist in this world unless it’s flushed with color.
And still, the eventual sight of those glorious trees is a marvel. Even the Lorax, with a bright (almost neon) coat of orange is stunning against these backdrops. Maybe it’s not the color so much as it is the sheer variety of hues on display. Fields open up and drop staggering amounts of saturation, all in conjunction with the sharpness expected of these CG spectacles.
Lorax doesn’t show weakness, even considering the smallest of details. Fields of blowing grass and minute fur don’t collapse into any form of aliasing. There’s a clear priority to maintain the image’s integrity. Shots of the city which fade into the background are resolved down to small signs that remain legible, and a detailed populace is never less than perfect when on screen.
Challenges are all considered above, Lorax remaining bright without any dry contrast spots. Black levels don’t need to perform beyond a handful of nighttime exteriors, and most of those are cast with a deep navy sky. Perky contrast is where most of the dimensionality comes from, spirited and energetic when it comes to depth.
This DTS-HD mix can be a little here and there, at times remarkably on cue, other times missing the motion entirely. As Ted zooms around town in his bike in the early moments, there’s no break from the center channel, even though he pushes heavily towards the sides. During a late chase through the streets, it’s as if the track finally found its spark, spewing audio from every direction in perfect sync with the visuals.
Out of everything though, it’s the music that benefits the most. The final theme, sung by all the townsfolk (and clearly a choir) called “Let it Grow” is marvelous in how it spreads the soundfield wide. Clapping to the beat slowly spreads into the surrounds as the scene reveals how many people are in this number, and the mix nails the timing.
A scattering of LFE moments are here, including a wall collapsing from a bulldozer, the first tree meeting the ground head first, and a waterfall sequence that’s about as traditional as they come. The subwoofer has some work to handle, but still, it’s the music that likes to flood the low-end too. Songs come alive as if they’re being sung at a live performance, and that’s what remains as the highlight.
Commentary time, this one from co-directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda. The three “mini-movies” advertised on the box art are mere three minute shorts in the world of Lorax; not sure when the name changed, but “movies” probably sounds more enticing in terms of value. A single deleted scene is not only finished but quite complex considering it was dropped.
The option to watch the film with commercials for the O’Hare Air company is offered, which is sort of fun? Maybe? Seuss to Screen details how the writers and crew transitioned this short tale into feature length with only the basics covered. Two interactive features (with bios, still pics, and more) are hardly worth the trouble it takes to navigate them. The same goes for two games that are as abysmal as you can imagine a Blu-ray video game being. D-Box compatibility and BD-Live access are offered too.