Kate Koenig, Arts Editor
The computer-animated feature film adaptation of “The Lorax” was released this past Friday, March 2nd, on the 108th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
It can be a scary thing — to fiddle with a classic. But this, as we know, wasn’t the first time a feature film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss story has been made. The first was the live action version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” starring Jim Carrey which came out in 2000, then “The Cat in the Hat” (another live action, from 2003) starring Mike Myers, which received more unfavorable reviews than the former. Then of course “Horton Hears a Who!” — the first Seuss adaptation to be made in 3-D and also starring Carrey — released in 2008 to many favorable reviews. Several animated cartoon versions were also made through the late 60s to the early 80s, including the memorable “Grinch” cartoon which has since become a Christmas classic, but all stick strictly to the original books. It’s when the stories are adapted for the silver screen that makes a Seuss fan (aren’t we all?) cringe at the thought of the amount of questionable contributions that must be added in order for the work to fit the expected hour-and-a-half running time.
Luckily, “The Lorax” turned out to be nothing worth cringing at. There are many added aspects of the story, but the central one is still faithfully told. The boy, who in the original book mainly plays the role of hopeful listener, is transformed into a full-fledged protagonist, with a full name (Ted Wiggins), a family, a love interest and the voice of Zac Efron. The character is motivated to find a long lost Truffula tree for his crush Audrey, voiced by Taylor Swift, when he goes in search of the Once-ler. The character of Ted is a bit irritating for a while with his stereotypical teenage attitude, but part of the movie is watching him grow. As he listens to the tale told by the Once-ler, he’s made to come back multiple days in a row, and gradually develops a personal interest in the extinction of the Truffula trees, maybe at the same pace as the children in the audience. One of the best parts, however, as well as the best preservation of the Dr. Seuss experience in the movie, is that the audience gets to enjoy the Once-ler’s tale without any skips or gloss-overs, just as one would listen to the original story being read aloud.
It’s clear that animation, whether it’s computerized 3-D or cartoon, is best fitting for Dr. Seuss adaptations (go figure!). “The Lorax” was vividly colorful, cute, funny and even heartwarming at times. It did well at buffing up the plot while respecting the work of the original author, without straying far from the important sentiments or being too over-the-top with the humor.
The film closes with a verse taken directly from the story: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not,” which is emphasized as the overall theme. Whether applied to environmentalism or not, the quote is the perfect closer, serving as a trademark of Dr. Seuss by communicating an important and universal message in a beautifully simple way.