I knew I was in trouble during the opening song of "The Lorax." It stunk with the kind of smug preachiness that never goes over well for me. "Will the whole movie be like this?" I asked myself. Unfortunately the answer turned out to be (mostly) yes.
Young Ted Wiggins (voice of Zac Efron) has a crush on Audrey (Taylor Swift), a neighbor a few years older than he is. The two have only ever known a world made entirely of plastic, which even includes trees. Aloysius O'Hare (Rob Riggle), the mayor of their home town of Thneedville, also owns the most powerful corporation in town. He's so powerful in fact that he's able to sell the people of Thneedville air in a bottle and the citizens love him for it. Audrey has a fascination however. A fascination with real trees and a great desire to see one. Ted of course makes it his mission to find a real tree and bring it to her. This sends him on a journey outside of town to a wasteland inhabited only by the Once-ler (Ed Helms). The Once-ler explains to Ted that he is responsible for the disappearance of real trees from Thneedville and he tells his story of how he met the Lorax (Danny DeVito).
The Lorax was a friend to all of the creatures of the world, but most of all, to the trees. When the young Once-ler chopped a single one down to begin his business of selling "thneeds," the Lorax appeared to mourn its loss and to prevent another one from being cut down. The Once-ler promised him that he wouldn't chop down another tree but his greed got the better of him and before long he'd cut down every truffula tree in sight.
Ted hopes that he'll be able to find another tree to show Audrey, while O'Hare will do anything in his power to stop the potential threat to his business.
I've always been a Dr. Seuss fan but my familiarity with this particular story was limited to seeing the 1972 TV special about 20 years ago. I accepted going in that its message might be laid on a little thick but this went well beyond the bounds of say, even "Cars 2." Watching it is like being awash in a sea of liberal guilt for 86 minutes to the point where you wonder how the filmmakers thought anyone could possibly enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with having a message in a film but you wrap it up inside a story that's entertaining or moving because we enjoy its world and care about its characters. "Wall-E" accomplished that with flying colors. The makers of "The Lorax" seemed to take the opposite approach. Its preachiness causes much of the comedy to fall flat and inspires us to either not care about its characters or dislike them altogether.
One of the reasons Dr. Seuss was so great was that he understood that one has to care about what happens to the people, animals,...trees in a story in order to get anything out of it. On that count this movie gets it wrong. 4/10.