"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" isn't subtle in its indictment of corporate greed and the environmental price it sometimes exacts.
While the politics of the message could be off-putting for some (loggers, the bottled-water industry, the plastics industry come to mind), "The Lorax" is a skillfully made animated movie, with effective use of 3-D and a script that includes plenty of humor to lighten up the fairly sober subject.
The movie reteams "Despicable Me" director Chris Renaud and screenwriter Ken Daurio. Animator Kyle Balda, also of "Despicable Me," shares the directing credit.
The movie centers on 12-year-old Ted (voice of Zac Efron), who has an incredible crush on Audrey (voice of Taylor Swift). They live in Thneedville, a town devoid of nature that is filled with plastic trees. The air is so polluted that one of the city's best-sellers is bottles of O'Hare Air, which people crack open and inhale with raptured looks on their faces.
Audrey is fascinated with stories of real trees, which hardly anyone in the walled city remembers. When she says she'd probably marry anyone who provided her with a real tree, Ted becomes a man with a mission.
His granny (voice of Betty White) sends him to find the Once-Ler, a reclusive and rather grumpy creature who knows all about the once-plentiful Truffula trees with their colorful, furry tops.
But to get to the Once-Ler (voice of Ed Helms), Ted has to get beyond the town wall, and Mr. O'Hare doesn't like that. He has spies everywhere trying to stop Ted from learning what happened to the trees.
Much of the movie is a flashback of how idyllic nature used to be, as the Once-Ler unfolds his sad tale. Inventor of the Thneed, he needed the furry treetops to manufacture it.
The Lorax (voice of Danny DeVito), a magical creature who speaks for the trees, tries to warn Once-Ler not to cut down the forest, which is filled with friendly little teddy bears, ducks, singing fish (a personal favorite) and other happy creatures.
Eventually the Once-Ler entrusts Ted with the last Truffula tree seed, which Mr. O'Hare is desperate to keep from being planted. Truffula trees produce clean air, which would be bad for O'Hare's business.
The movie contains hardly any of Dr. Seuss' trademark sing-songy rhymes filled with invented words. But the script is well-written enough that you probably won't miss them. Seuss' penchant for inventive machines and stacked houses is fully embraced. The result is a visually pleasing story drenched in color, with several musical interludes.
Kids will have no trouble signing on to the movie's message about environmental responsibility. It will be hard for adults to miss the message about caution toward corporate messages. O'Hare's spokesmen justify their destructive ways by saying they create jobs and boost the economy.
That resonates in a presidential election year, 41 years after the children's book was published.
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