"A good heart these days is hard to find," crooned Feargal Sharkey back in the '80s. This computer-animated 3D rendering of Dr Seuss's acclaimed children's book certainly possesses such an organ, but lacks the laughs and ingenuity to propel it beyond its distinctly average status.
The central story is efficiently established, as young lad Ted (Zac Efron) leaves the clutches of a nature-free city run by cruel air-vendor O'Hare in search of finding a real tree to impress some bland lass. He comes across a shady, paranoid creature called the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who reveals the sad truth behind the destruction of the land's lush forests despite the attempts of a guardian called The Lorax (Danny DeVito) to save it.
Packed full of bright colours that contrast well with the depictions of desolation, The Lorax impresses with the good heart of Seuss's story, which is still resonant and relevant in today's age of mass commercialisation. Several sequences of the destruction of nature - particularly the felling of the first tree and the mournful reactions of the forest creatures - are very affecting. In that sense, it's ideal fodder for young'uns to watch and be indoctrinated with the right beliefs.
However, the movie's main issue is the disparity between form and content. It seeks to communicate a pro-environmentalist message that lauds organic matter, yet conveys this through a homogenised computer-animated aesthetic that feels extremely synthetic.
Human beings of all ages should be capable of recognising the mediocrity of the musical numbers though. Loud, brash and lacking melody, these cacophonies add nothing to the story and annoy the eardrums, despite allowing director Chris Renaud free reign to deliver some much-needed visual dynamism during these sequences. There is certainly enough evidence to suggest he may flourish with live-action movies in the near future.
One particular unwelcome addition to the book is a token love interest for Ted in the form of Taylor Swift's Audrey. Again, it feels like a plotting-by-numbers contrivance and detracts from the simplicity of Dr Seuss' intentions. Similarly, the chief villain O'Hare (another addition) is mocked by the movie for the shortness of his physical stature. It's cheap and nasty for a movie geared towards children.
Issues of a diminutive nature lead us on to Danny DeVito, who breathes much life into the grumpy but sweet Lorax. Perhaps that character's fusion of these wildly opposing traits could be seen as an unwitting representation of the movie's success and failings?
Ed Helms excels as the self-loathing Once-ler, often channeling the actor's character Andy Bernard in the US version of The Office. Zac Efron is also perfectly fine as Ted, although there isn't a wealth of dramatic voice-acting material as he's more of a receptive sponge than an active participant for much of the movie. However, best of all is the legendary Betty White as Ted's batty but buoyant Grammy Norma – the best addition to the original book.
An honorable message at its core works wonders for sustaining an interest in The Lorax despite its numerous failings. Four decades after the original source material was published, Dr Seuss's moral compass is still required for the children of today.