Can The Lorax turn around a summer of sub-par kids movies? No.
Dr. Seuss is America’s Roald Dahl. His works have been adopted by a nation as a means of encouraging children to read and they have become increasingly idolised in the years since his death, allowing the author to attain a kind of mythic state. The two have also become brands, although Seuss is the more ruthlessly exploited in this respect.
But on the whole Dahl has experienced better treatment at the hands of cinematic adaptors than his transatlantic contemporary. The Tim Burton-produced James and the Giant Peach, Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches and the recent Wes Anderson version of Fantastic Mr Fox have all been critically worthy, if not commercially successful. The opposite is true of the last decade of Dr. Seuss films.
Live action atrocities How The Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat were both big earners, at the expense of sullying the reputation of the source material. The leap to CGI with Horton Hears a Who! earned improved reviews, but was hardly memorable. And now, four years later, we have The Lorax.
You may have noticed that this review is a bit padded with peripheral information because there’s really not much to say about this moderately diverting movie. It lands in the middle of a summer that is largely devoid of decent options for younger children, which is a shame given all the heavyweight teen and adult blockbusters that have earned billions and won critical acclaim.
The Lorax is particularly irrelevant in the UK, where the cult of Dr. Seuss is less significant. Its tale of corporate greed and environmental destruction is delivered cheerfully enough, but aside from Danny DeVito’s casting as the titular forest guardian and Betty White’s mischievous grandma, no other voice actor matches the character with which they are associated. And while the imagery of the Dr Seuss books is so distinctive, this film manages to interpret the world as generically as possible.
So while The Lorax is not a disaster, it is likely to shuffle out of cinemas without much of an impact outside of its native land. And its attempts at environmental indoctrination fall a little flat when you consider the film’s corporate tie-ins and merchandising deals. But of course the kids won’t notice this, the snot-nosed bum pickers that they are.