Watching movies is never going to compete with a hike in the great outdoors, but how thrilling would it be to see a new generation turned on to Ted Geisel’s 1971 ecotragedy – as close as the author got to apocalyptic? For its Blade Runner-like smogscapes alone, this retelling of the nightmare (well-anchored by Ed Helms’s “Once-ler,” a likably ambitious young man with a guitar) comes close to recommendable. Down go the Truffula trees, out pops Danny DeVito’s very angry woodland spirit, and suddenly you’re watching a cautionary tale that no number of ancillary Lorax toys is going to dispel. (Geisel himself was aware of the irony of his popular book requiring forests to publish.)
Unfortunately, a new problem rears its head: It seems no young audience member can be trusted to enjoy a thoughtful story without a heroic, borderline-obnoxious surrogate (here, he’s voiced by Zac Efron) zooming around on a scooter, bonking villainous heads and saving the day. Blame the trend on Home Alone, but few modern-day directors are impervious to it. The point of The Lorax isn’t to see that preserved Truffula seed planted and Taylor Swift’s lust object smooched. It’s to inspire audiences to act out of fear. And we haven’t earned this happy ending.
By Joshua Rothkopf on May 11 2012 4.30am