"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" is a cautionary tale of a bleak and dreary world without trees. But before you yell "those tree-hugging liberals are brainwashing our children," heed this -- the movie actually takes a middle-of-the-road approach with the environment. We can use the trees for our own purpose, we just can't chop them.
Dr. Seuss, himself, called "The Lorax" a propaganda book meant to shed light on the dangers posed by our industrialized society to nature. The American icon did not say lumbering is immoral, but that the book is "about going easy on what we've got."
From the studio and creators of "Despicable Me," "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" captures the whimsical but dreadful nature of the book. It is, after all, a fable about a world without trees to supply air. But it's not all doom and gloom because like the book, the movie also provides hope.
That hope is personified by Ted, voiced by Zac Efron, a boy from Thneedville who goes on a quest to find a living tree. The love of his life, the beautiful Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift), wants a mythical Truffula tree.
The film opens with a colorful musical number featuring the folks of Thneedville singing about how happy they are living in their plasticized world. Sure they don't have trees but who needs them when they have the wealthy businessman Mr. O'Hare (Rob Riggle) to sell them air.
With the help of Ted's grandma, the world's coolest grandmother voiced by the world's coolest person, Betty White, he finds the secret passage out of Thneedville to meet Once-ler (Ed Helms), the guy who knows what really happened to the Truffula trees.
In a series of flashbacks, we learned how greed and corruption destroyed the Truffula valley and drove its residents away. This is pretty much the core of Dr. Seuss' book and where the film's narrative comes alive.
At its heart, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" is a tale of two men. We have the greedy Once-ler and the magical defender of the forest, the Lorax (Danny DeVito), an orange-skinned creature with yellow bushy moustache. DeVito is perfect for the role. He has enough "sharpish and bossy" tone that makes his Lorax endearingly authoritative.
Directed by Chris Renaud, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" has an uneven tone that is saved by its brilliantly-constructed second half. Believe it or not, the film actually shines when it's being preachy.
The animation, with its colorful palette, is an eye-popping splendor. It is fun to see Dr. Seuss' creation comes alive on the big screen such as the adorable bearlike creatures called the Bar-ba-loots, the gaggle of Swomee-Swans, and my favorite, the Humming-Fish.
It is not uncommon for children's stories to have messages. If I'm going to pick one animated film that speaks volumes about conservationism, my heart still belongs to "Wall-E." But "The Lorax" comes very close.
And in the end, I don't see anything wrong in teaching our kids to love and protect our environment. It's better than indoctrinating them to use violence. As Dr. Seuss wrote, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."