Hollywood has a hit and miss track record when it comes to adapting Dr. Seuss stories. While the 1966 TV special for How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a celebrated masterpiece, the big screen Jim Carrey version from 2000 is best left forgotten. Same goes for the disgraceful 2003 live-action version of The Cat in the Hat, starring a very creepy Mike Myers. And who can forget the surreal 1953 musical The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, which Seuss wrote solely for the screen. It might be a cult favourite now, but it was definitely not something he was proud of then.
In recent years Seuss’ material has been treated much better by filmmakers who understand how beloved his stories are. When Horton Hears a Who! came out in 2008 people were genuinely shocked by the stunning quality of the animation as well as the script and voice work. The movie’s critical and box office success opened the doors for the next Seuss adaptation — The Lorax.
Set in a town where everything is fake, including the trees, The Lorax is about a young boy who ventures out to find a real tree for a girl he likes. On his journey outside of town he meets the Once-ler, a man who became rich selling a useless fashion accessory and then lost everything after he cut down all the trees required to make it. The Once-ler tells the boy about the Lorax, a mystical creature who had warned him about the outcome of his ways. After all the trees were gone, so was the Lorax, and neither has returned.
While Seuss wrote The Lorax in 1971, and it was adapted as a television special in 1972, the underlying environmental message is even more relevant today. That said, it’s not overly preachy and the film, written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (the duo who also wrote Horton and Despicable Me), is hilarious for the most part. The colourful animation is breathtaking too, and the voices, which include Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Ed Helms, and Danny DeVito, all fit perfectly.
After screening the film my four-year-old son said it was the “best movie ever!” Then on the way home he began asking serious questions about nature and how we can protect the environment. If a movie can entertain while secretly educating children, it’s a must-see in my book.
Voices of: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito
Directed by: Chris Renaud and Kyl Balda
Top image: A scene from The Lorax. Courtesy Universal Pictures.