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Dr. Seuss's The Lorax: Movie review

Dr. Seuss's prescient eco-fable The Lorax dons the cinematic mantle with aplomb.

  • Courtesy Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

    Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

  • Courtesy Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

    Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

  • Courtesy Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

    Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Courtesy Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Time Out Ratings

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

It's hard to imagine a more perfect film rendition of Dr. Seuss's keenly visionary story The Lorax—which, like the book, is only secondarily about the furry orange creature with a gruff demeanor and an unfailing moral compass. The movie opens in a small, seemingly happy town called Thneed-Ville: Cars buzz along on streets, kids ride bikes and play games, moms scold their kids for being late for dinner. But on closer inspection there are problems: big, uncomfortably familiar ones, like a corrupt regime, Big Brother surveillance and the intentional sabotaging of human health for corporate profit. There's also a disturbing lack of plants, trees and all those other things that grow in the ground and magically produce oxygen, something we come to learn via the blossoming friendship of tweens Ted (Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift), a girl who dreams of trees and wants nothing more than to see a real one for the first time in her life. Upon learning of her wish, of course, Ted is armed with a mission.

The good-versus-evil storyline is adventure-filled and, at times, literally dizzying, thanks to eye-popping 3-D chase scenes with roller-coaster-like twists and drops and Ted's adventure terrain stunts on a Segway. Yet the action does nothing to detract from the dark core of the tale, namely the story of how Thneed-Ville came to be what it is today, as recounted by the Once-Ler (Ed Helms), a mysterious figure Ted tracks down in the apocalyptically desolate land outside city limits, hoping to learn more about these oddities called trees. Once, Ted comes to learn, this vast land was dense with swaying, rainbow-colored Truffula trees and populated by a completely lovable cast of critters (the sweet bears especially): Dr. Seuss's startlingly beautiful version of paradise on earth. We watch spellbound as the blind, even naive ambition of one man betrays the earth—and by turns its protector, the plucky Lorax (Danny DeVito)—in the most horrid of ways, felling trees, polluting the air and plundering life itself until there's nothing left to take.

Yes, it's pretty bleak stuff, but kids will get it, and they will care. They'll rally around Ted in his heroic effort to reverse the course of history with the help of Grammy Norma (a wonderul Betty White), his belief in people, and the last remaining Truffula seed. And those little moviegoers are also likely to carry the story far beyond the theater doors and into their lives. For Dr. Seuss's biggest gift to kids has always been stories that test the human heart and actually matter.

Dirs. Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda. 2012. PG. 94 mins. Based on the book by Dr. Seuss. Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and Danny DeVito.

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