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DR SEUSS' THE LORAX

SYNOPSIS:
To impress Audrey (voice of Taylor Swift) the girl of his dreams, 12 year old Ted (Zac Efron) goes in search of a tree - a real tree, since in their home of Thneedville no real trees exist. Nor real flowers ... it's all man made, and ruled by bottled air tycoon Mr O'Hare (Rob Riggle). Leaving Thneedville on his quest, he finds the ageing Once-ler (Ed Helms), who confesses to having been the one who caused the felling of all the trees in his pursuit of profits from the Thneeds he could make of the orange leaves. But it's Lorax (Danny DeVito) the fluffy orange guardian of trees who helps Ted understand the importance of trees - so when Once-ler remorsefully urges Ted to do something about it, Ted takes on Mr O'Hare's empire to give people back the trees.

Review by Louise Keller:
Multi-coloured trees resembling fairy floss are the focus of this inventively funny, eco-friendly 3D animated confection from Dr Seuss in which it's raining marshmallows, humming fish sing in harmony and a young boy initiates change to impress his dream girl. Reportedly, The Lorax was Theodor (Dr Seuss) Geisel's personal favourite of his 40 works, which is not surprising, with its clever combo of fantasy characters and plot, environmental issues ahead of its time and the universal truth that one small action by an individual can precipitate change. There are toe-tapping songs, memorable limericks, effective use of 3D and a happy tale with a sound moral to ground the mayhem.

In the opening scenes, we enter the plastic, fake world of Thneedville, where artificial flowers and trees line the clinical streets. Youngsters like Ted (voice of Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift) have never seen a real tree - they have been brainwashed into believing that the latest plastic model with its own remote that changes with the seasons and includes a disco feature, is superior to the real thing. But there's a conspiracy in Thneedville, in which the scheming, evil and squat O'Hare (Rob Riggle) is promoting his new scam to sell fresh air in plastic bottles - to counter the increasing smog. Real trees that help keep the air fresh would not help his cause.

When Ted admires Audrey's paintings of the Truffula trees and hears that she would give anything to see a real living tree in her backyard, a seed is firmly planted in his brain, wanting desperately to impress the pretty redhead on whom he has a giant crush. Betty White is a riot as Ted's cool Grammy Norma, with the Priscilla-inspired white curly hair, who points Ted in the direction of the exiled Once-ler (Ed Helms). Navigating the steep, narrow roads and hazards to get beyond the steel-walled gates of Thneedville on his robust bike with the one versatile wheel, Ted finds the hairy, reclusive and unfriendly Once-ler behind locked doors.

The heart of the film starts to beat as Once-ler tells his story of fortune and loss after destroying the trees and breaking his promise. Humour kicks in as we are taken in flashback to a time when a younger Once-ler and his cross-eyed mule with attitude ventured into the coloured paradise filled with the silk-tufted Truffula trees and lovable band of forest animals. (The Truffula trees were inspired Seuss' trip to the Serengeti.)The cute-as-cute bears, harmonic Humming-Fish and Melvin the Mule are the scene stealers - we can't get enough of them. The Lorax (Danny De Vito) with the impressive yellow moustache and eyebrows is the guardian of the forest, who appears when Once-ler cuts down the first tree, in his bid to make his fortune by making a multi-purpose knitted garment made from the trees' foliage.

From the creators of Despicable Me, The Lorax is a hilarious, uplifting, inventive and wonderful film for all ages.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
There are no hidden messages or subtle moralising in Dr Seuss' The Lorax: it's all very much in the open. Greed and deforestation are the film's primary targets, with plenty of prickly asides about industrialisation and society's all too ready embrace of anything sold in plastic bottles, from water to fresh air - the latter being Thneedville's major business, under Mr O'Hare (voice of Rob Riggle).

Thneedville needs bottled air since the open air is polluted by all the yuk that is produced making all the items that are used in the town - including fake trees.

Are these messages too mature for the film's primary target audience (8 - 13)? Perhaps, but children more than likely absorb the simple message that 'trees are good' and cutting them down is bad. Beyond that it's their parents who will pick up on the political cartoon elements - things that come naturally to the author known as Dr Seuss, since he began life as a political cartoonist.

Draped in an adventure, the story of Ted's (Zac Efron) quest and the gruffly guiding hand of the Lorax (Danny DeVito) involves escaping from Thneedsville and making a risky journey across a deforested and desolate landscape to find Once-ler, now an ageing hermit in a creaky but fully alarmed house.

As the yarn unfolds and his mission becomes our focus, we tend to forget that Ted is motivated by his wish to impress a girl. Nothing wrong with that, but it somehow diminishes the value of his quest. It's the Lorax who stands for the value and importance of trees. The subtleties may seem unimportant, but kids are sharp.

The 3D-CG work is exceptional, down to the hairy edges of the Thneed, a sort of multi-functional scarf affair in orange, made from the Thneed trees, which have orange fairy floss for foliage. These bright visuals have great appeal, highly controlled shapes and forms that contrast with our visceral knowledge of things natural. Thneedville (a bit reminiscent of The Truman Show (1998) as a man-made and controlled town contained within walls) is all too neat and tidy - and plastic.

With the prompting of Dr Seuss' imagery, the filmmakers have created a stylised world in which the animals are playful (notably three amusing Humming Fish) and vehicles are approximations of what we know. For example, Ted's handy and speedy little motorbike has only one wheel - but it's big and fat and manages every curve, slope and dip with ease.

Entertaining, sharply paced but accessible, The Lorax has enough maturity to engage adults and enough adventure to enthral children. It was released in the US on March 2, 2012, which would have been Dr Seuss' 108th birthday. He would no doubt think it is even more timely today than it was forty years ago.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

DR SEUSS' THE LORAX (PG)
(US, 2012)

VOICES: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Rob Riggle

PRODUCER: Janet Healy, Christopher Melendandri

DIRECTOR: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda

SCRIPT: Ken Duario (book by Dr Seuss)

EDITOR: Claire Dodgson, Steven Liu, Ken Schretzmann

MUSIC: John Pwell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yarrow Cheney

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 29, 2012







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