That is, they churned out an uninspired, bland, predictable story to justify charging people to see a movie-length CGI production featuring some elements of the original. They call it "Dr. Seuss's" The Lorax, but it isn't really. It's hard to imagine that Dr. Seuss would've been down with the idea of Lorax-based merchandising.
So here's what it is. Thneedville is a walled community without trees, where fresh air is supplied by a corporation run by an evil little man and his thugs. Nobody minds. Our hero is a kid who loves a girl who paints pictures of trees on her house and dreams of seeing a real one. To win her affection, he goes off to find her a tree, and locates the Once-ler, who in intermittent flashbacks tells the story of what happened to them.
It's boring. They made The Lorax boring. There's very little of the original text in the script, and a lot of nothing added to fill time. Betty White (voicing the hero kid's Grandma) and Danny DeVito (voicing the title role), Zac Efron and Taylor Swift, cool as they are, didn't wow me.
Adding to the wretchedness: it has songs. The young Once-ler carries around an electric guitar, and now this is a musical.
They took The Lorax, stripped it of its simplicity, wisdom, and wit, added flat, stock characters and music not worthy of a good advertisement, threw in some obligatory cute animal bits, and spat it back out at a public ready to open their wallets. Universal Studios hasn't missed a trick - the movie contains several sequences that will make great rides in their theme parks.
Remember the villain played by Ken Jeong in Furry Vengeance? Basically the same villain here. Remember Alvin and the Chipmunks? Add fins, and you got yourself some Humming-Fish. Thneedville with its bottled air is not unlike the spaceship carrying everyone around in Wall-E. I don't think there's an original angle in this whole film.
If you see it, you won't have a horrible time. It's not actively unpleasant (except for the singing, gah!). You might even like it. My problem comes from setting the bar too high -- from believing that anyone who really read and understood this story, with its message about conservation and corporate greed, would never turn it into something as vapid and forgettable as this, let alone stamp Loraxes on stuff and go "biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering." In an arrangement that busts the irony meter into tiny outraged splinters, this Lorax is now being used to sell cars. I am the Lorax! I speak for the Mazdas!
It's the height of cynicism to have done this, and I hope it's a colossal failure.