At the heart of the story is the bright orange figure of the Lorax himself (voiced by Danny DeVito), a forest guardian who presides over Truffula Valley, an idyllic place of candyfloss-coloured trees and cute woodland critters. Into the valley comes the ambitious young Once-ler (Ed Helms), a wannabe entrepreneur who chops down the trees to turn their fluffy foliage into ‘a fine something that all people need’. ‘Thneeds’, as the Once-ler calls these all-purpose objects, are a runaway success, but before long the valley has been stripped bare.
In its place springs Thneedville, a totally synthetic city where all the trees are plastic and air is sold in bottles - greatly enriching local pint-sized capitalist O’Hare (Rob Riggle). Years later, plucky youngster Ted (Zac Efron) resolves to find a real tree to impress dream-girl Audrey (Taylor Swift) and goes on a quest that puts him at odds with the grasping O’Hare.
Hollywood has found it tricky translating the whimsical magic of Dr Seuss’ tales from page to screen and the makers of The Lorax don’t fully pull off the feat here. Their effort is a vast improvement on 2000’s lamentable How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but the strain of stretching a 45-page book into a feature-length narrative shows all too clearly. It needs three clumsy flashbacks to shoehorn Ted’s quest, invented for the film, into the tale of the Once-ler and the Lorax.
That said, Ted’s adventures produce some zippy chase sequences and the accompanying songs are jolly, if not particularly memorable. And, happily, the story’s environmental message still comes across - which has predictably earned the film rabid denunciations by foam-flecked right-wingers in the States.
On general release from Friday 27th July.
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