There's something about Dr. Seuss books that seem to work well with television than they do on the big screen. With the exception of "Horton Hears A Who!" from 2008, the Dr. Seuss movies don't really work. "The Lorax" is sadly another one that also doesn't work. Despite boasting the same writers as Horton and having a mostly pretty good cast, the film falls into the trap of a book adaptation that was given the Hollywoodized treatment. Basically, it's where it has to become appealing for mainstream audiences adding cool new hip things at the time that'll become quickly dated in a few years. In short, this film really falls apart.
In the artificial town of Thneedville, a boy named Ted (Zach Efron) has a crush on a high school girl named Audrey (Taylor Swift). Wanting to win her heart, he soon discovers that she really wants to see a real-life tree and not a synthetic one that's all over town. He soon discovers that in order to get a tree, he must leave town in search of a mysterious hermit known as the Once-ler (Ed Helms). After arriving, he soon is told the tale of how the younger Once-ler proceeded to make an invention called a thneed resulting in the chopping of a Trufulla tree and the appearance of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), a creature who speaks for the trees. Meanwhile in the present though, the greedy mayor of Thneedville, Aloysius O'Hare (Rob Riggle) sees Ted leaving town constantly to hear the tales of the Once-ler and panics knowing that it could damage his reputation of selling bottles of fresh air to people. What happens next? Well, I guess you might as well know if you know the original tale and can tell by this new story added in.
There are two plots that occur in the story of "The Lorax". One involving Ted trying to get a tree for Audrey much to the chagrin of O'Hare and the other focusing on the Once-ler's mishaps involving his dreaded invention and how he didn't listen to the Lorax. It's pretty clear to which plot is more interesting, but both of them have problems. The newer plot isn't very interesting as it's so predictable and bland that it just begs the question of why it needs to exist. The plot involving the Once-ler and Lorax is a lot more fun, but it's often dated and too rushed at times because it takes a step backward to the Thneedvile plot line. It's strange as the film had the same writers of "Horton Hears A Who!", but it somehow didn't recapture the same magic and that could be because Blue Sky honestly knew how to pull of the more zany world of Seuss than Illumination. The animation is a big plus for the movie though. It captures the work of Seuss to a tee and has bright, beautiful colors that make the world eye-popping. I also do like the character designs as well, with the exception of the Once-ler. The reason why is because, in the original book as well as Friz Freleng's original TV special, they kept the character hidden with the exception of his arms which proves that the Once-ler could be anyone. By showing him, it ruins the magic. Also, I imagined him more as an odd creature rather than a human, but that could be just a nitpick. The characters are mostly misses. Ted and Audrey are bland and forgettable, the Once-ler is pretty dated and annoying at times and O'Hare is just a cliche villain that does have any appealing qualities to him. Even his design looks similar to Edna Mode from "The Incredibles". The Lorax and Ted's Granny, on the other hand, are pretty fun. That could be because of their actors. I mean, you can't go wrong with Danny DeVito and Betty White. Another thing I have to talk about, and this is the biggest problem of the movie, are the songs. Yikes, were they bad. I think John Powell is a great composer and has given us some fantastic scores with the music in the film being pretty good, but his songs in this film are terrible. I feel they were thrown in last minute due to pressure from the studio and it clearly shows. One lyric in a song (and it's not an ad lib or anything) was "La la la la la la la la la la li". Yeah, that's pretty lazy storytelling.
So, is "The Lorax" a movie I'd recommend? Not really. Despite its great animation, it's pretty clumsy as its story is clunky and uninteresting at times, the characters are mostly misses and the songs are really bad. It's not a movie I'd watch again. If you want a better Dr. Seuss movie, I'd just watch "Horton Hears A Who!" or even just stick with the original television specials from Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng. They're much better than this.