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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this animated adaptation of Dr. Seuss' beloved tale of The Lorax is age-appropriate for younger kids; there's little scary stuff, and the pro-environmental message is a positive one. The main issue here is really the movie's huge number of consumerist tie-ins -- at least 70 different marketing promotions. For an anti-materialism story to advertise so many products to kids and their parents sends a particularly confusing message. Still, the movie itself -- like the original story -- promotes conservation and protecting the environment. Kids will leave the film wanting to do more to help the natural world ... too bad that take-away will be diluted by the onslaught of available merchandise with the Lorax's bright-orange image on it.
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What's the story?
THE LORAX takes place in the town of Thneedville, where there are no real trees, or grass, or nature to speak of -- everything is plastic and fake. When young Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) discovers that what his crush, Audrey (Taylor Swift), wants more than anything is to see a real tree, he sets out to find one for her. Advised by his grandmother (Betty White), Ted leaves Thneedville in search of the reclusive Once-ler (Ed Helms), who tells him the story of The Lorax (Danny DeVito). As Ted learns more about the history of the Truffula Trees that the Once-ler chopped down, his life is Thneedville is challenged by the town's bigwig, Mr. O'Hare (Rob Riggle), who profits from the manufactured air that the citizens have been taught to buy and breathe. But if Ted exposes the truth to the people of Thneedville, they'll realize nature isn't the dirty inconvenience they've been taught to believe.
Is it any good?
To those who consider the book as Dr. Seuss' magnum opus, this adaptation of The Lorax will be at least somewhat a relief (unlike the miserable The Cat in the Hat). It's light and sweet and frames the original story in an easy-to-understand plot about a boy who wants to impress his tree-obsessed crush. The star-studded voice cast does a fine job (the main characters are even named after Dr. Seuss -- Theodore Geisel -- and his widow, Audrey), and the songs are all upbeat, if not Randy Newman-memorable. If it weren't an adaptation, The Lorax would make for a fun, message-filled movie with a charming set of characters.
The problem is that passionate lovers of The Lorax will expect more; they'll hope for a movie as timeless and important as Seuss' subversive commentary on the perils of conspicuous consumption and forsaking the environment to benefit the almighty dollar. But the studio has already marred that idea with its constant parading of various Lorax-approved products. Having the Lorax shill for an SUV or themed breakfasts is counter to the spirit of the story -- which, at least in the movie, promotes a return to nature. Kids will surely delight in The Lorax, but teens and parents savvy enough to recognize the irony of big-studio consumerism may wonder whether Dr. Seuss would have approved at all. (If you're looking for another take on the tale, try the excellent 1970s adaptation -- it's shorter, but it doesn't have the pesky tie-ins to worry about.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Lorax's messages. What does it want viewers to take away from the story? What are some ways that parents and kids can make a difference to the environment?
What made kids want to see this movie -- the story or all the product tie-ins? Do kids want a product because The Lorax is on it? How do kids feel about the fact that one of their favorite characters is being used to sell products that might not be good for the Earth?
What are your favorite Dr. Seuss stories? Which ones were best translated into movies? Are there any other Dr. Seuss books you'd like to see adapted?
- In theaters: March 2, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: August 7, 2012
- Cast: Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Zac Efron
- Director: Chris Renaud
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Science and Nature
- Character strengths: Courage, Integrity
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief mild language
- Last updated: September 13, 2020
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