My kids were wide-eyed for most of the Lorax this weekend, happily munching movie theater popcorn, and bouncing to some of the songs. By this time you probably know the Lorax has been a huge box office hit, you might imagine that the animation is superb, and you could expect the story to be fitting of a Dr. Seuss adaptation.
You may also know that the 1971 book was a fable about environmental destruction, told by the washed-up Once-ler who gained his riches by destroying an entire forest of trees. The mystical Lorax creature tries to protect the trees and all of the animals who live in the forest. A nameless young boy learns this story and hears from the Once-ler, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not."
As the parents of two young children, my husband and I felt the movie was family friendly, captivating and included an important message. As a life-long Dr. Seuss fan, it felt like the movie was a much different sort of book-inspired production rather than a screenplay of the original story. It seemed the movie could have used more of the book's original wording, given author Theodor Seuss Geisel's creative genius as a wordsmith.
The movie's writers name the boy Ted and give him a girlfriend, Audrey, to motivate his search for a long-lost truffala tree. The fleshed-out, fast-paced story uses voicing from Zack Efron as Ted and Taylor Swift as Audrey, who both meet expectations -- except that these talented singers disappointingly never sing for us.
Ed Helms skillfully sings his way through the Once-ler's life story, voicing the likable but misguided character who lets hopes of prosperity turn to greed. But Danny DeVito delivers the strongest performance of the movie, voicing the Lorax as he gives the Once-ler chance after chance to protect the trees and the world they support by making the very air people need to breathe.
It seemed a strange coincidence that our family attended this movie on the eve of Palm Sunday, then returned home from the theater just in time to observe Earth Hour. The bedtime stories I told the children in the dark included those from our Christian faith of Jesus on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. It occurred to me that as a literary device, the Lorax serves as the Christ figure of the Seuss story, from the mechanics of his arrival and departure to the plot itself involving loss and redemption.
Like all good storytellers, Geisel wrote his little masterpiece with the ability for it to work on several levels. So, you can enjoy the book and the movie without having to get into theology. My oldest daughter said it best when she commented, unprompted by me immediately after the show, "Mommy, that was a good story."