Theodor Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss, used the optimistic Whos, a slightly demented Cat in the Hat, a caring elephant and a host of other oddball characters to make points about happiness, responsibilities and other important life lessons. No lesson is as blatant and direct as his 1971 publication, "The Lorax."
In an almost doomsday scenario, "The Lorax" looks at what happens to the environment when the last Truffula tree has been cut down. It's a cautionary tale aimed dramatically at young and old.
That message is just as strong in the latest animated version of the book, but it has been cushioned slightly by a fun musical soundtrack and a budding love story. Not only will you want to hug a tree after seeing "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," but you will also want to hug a few humans.
Unlike the book, this tale of destruction starts with the efforts of 12-year-old Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) to get the attention of Audrey (Taylor Swift). They live in a world where everything is made of plastic and Audrey longs to see a real tree. Ted's quest leads him to The Once-ler (Ed Helms), the lone resident in a barren landscape who relates his tale of greed and destruction.
Despite warnings by The Lorax (Danny DeVito), a fuzzy creature who speaks for the trees, the Once-ler cuts down the Truffula trees to make an item everyone needs. When the last tree falls, the business closes and the world becomes a dark and plastic place.
From the opening number -- a musical flash mob -- to a fast-paced chase scene, the screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul keeps the essence of the original book, but gives it just enough kick to create fast-paced fun. The pair -- who also wrote the very funny "Despicable Me" -- have created a band of wonderful supporting characters, particularly a trio of goldfish who provide big laughs.
This strong story is visually splendid. Directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda -- who already had the whimsical visuals that are trademarks of a Dr. Seuss story -- make the characters and locations even more Seuss-ian through a solid use of 3D technology.
The film's lone weakness is the new villain, Mr. O'Hare (Rob Riggle), who has turned fresh air into a profit. The character doesn't fit visually with the Dr. Seuss style, which makes him more of a distraction than an asset.
"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" is unapologetic in its environmental message. No apology is needed when the message is delivered in such a bright and fun manner.
"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," rated PG. Stars voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Ed Helms. Directed by Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda. Running time: 95 minutes. Grade: A- Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.