When my wife told me we were expecting our first son, my first response seemed entirely rational to me. I went to a bookstore, and I bought a giant collection of Dr. Seuss stories.
Why not? When I think about the things I want helping shape the world view of my kids, the work of Theodor Geisel is high on that list. Like Jim Henson, there is a decency and an expansive kindness that is central to his work, and if filmmakers hope to capture what works in the stories he created, they have to aim high.
When I went to the offices of Illumination Entertainment recently to check in on what they were doing with “The Lorax,” I was very curious. One of the most overt of Seuss’s books, “The Lorax” comes with a built-in environmental message that was upsetting 50 years ago but which is positively terrifying now considering how little we seem to have learned in that time.
It looks like this new feature film version of “The Lorax” uses the text of the book as a core around which a much larger new story has been built involving Ted (Zac Efron), a boy who wants to find a Truffala tree in order to win over Audrey (Taylor Swift), the girl he’s got a crush on. Using the names of the real Dr. Seuss and his second wife, the woman who is still the primary voice of his publishing estate, is a very sweet touch, and it appears that Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda have directed a film that pays great tribute overall to the work that Seuss created.
In the book, the Once-ler only appears as he does in the photo I used for this article, a pair of eyes on a dark face with arms hanging out a boarded-up window. It’s a big choice to make him a full character who we see in daylight and get to know, and some Seuss purists may reject that choice. I think it’s all in how it’s handled, and this trailer gives me some hope that they’ve found the real music and soul of what Seuss did.
And, yes, Danny De Vito’s final line reading in the trailer makes me laugh. Over and over. I think he gets more deranged with each passing year, and it only makes me love him more.
“The Lorax” arrives in theaters March 2, 2012.