Successfully filming Dr Seuss is as difficult as getting a toddler to sit for an oil painting. His wiry line drawings and bouncily absurd verse somehow resist being captured off the page, and this rigidly synthetic effort from the ‘Despicable Me’ team fares no better than ‘The Grinch’ and ‘The Cat in the Hat’.
Published in 1972, ‘The Lorax’ is one of Seuss’s bleakest works. An environmentally conscious fable about the perils of non-sustainable industry, it’s cast as a classical battle of wills between The Once-ler, a greedy, deforesting entrepreneur, and The Lorax, a mustachioed critter who acts as nature’s guardian. Writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, who previously failed to nail Seuss in ‘Horton Hears a Who!’, have retained the noble moral but added a litany of car chases, pratfalls, wacky grandmas and pint-sized villains to ensure twenty-first-century tykes aren’t bored getting to it.
The Lorax himself may ‘speak for the trees’, and he’s voiced with some zest by Danny DeVito – but amid all this plasticky clutter, he scarcely gets a word in edgeways. The result is about as factory-produced a film as it’s possible to make about the evils of commercialism, while the bulbous, Haribo-hued animation style reflects none of Seuss’s visual wit.