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While many are familiar with Dr. Seuss and all his books, it is quite possible that some children who are now adults did not have the opportunity to read or know about all the things this author imagined. For those unfamiliar, and those who know the stories since their childhood, Universal Studios presents ‘The Lorax’ in theaters nationwide. What a treat it is to discover this story on film, through a screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul.

Directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda deliver a real treat with this 3D -CG feature adaptation of the classic tale. This animated adventure film comes from the creators of the giant hit, ‘Despicable Me,’ with forest creatures who live in a very colorful world, completely changed by humans.

The story is set in the current and plastic world where humanity lives. 12-year-old Ted (voice of Zac Efron) lives with his Mom (Jenny Slate) and Grammy Norma (Betty White). The girl of his dreams, Audrey (Taylor Swift), introduces him to another world through her art. When he discovers what her passion is and makes her happy, Ted’s journey to find it for her completely changes the world as they know it.

Grammy Norma knows Ted all too well and enables him to pursue what he wants. This time Ted listens to some of his Grammy’s stories, including The Once-ler (Ed Helms). This may make him uncomfortable to set foot outside of what he has known all his life, but he searches for the one thing that Audrey wants.

When The Once-ler starts to relay the story of the past, the viewer learns about The Lorax (voice of Danny DeVito) and the world as it used to be. Some of the most hilarious lines are during the flashback that The Once-ler has about his youth and how the creatures reacted to his setting up shop on the peaceful and green land on which they live. Director Chris Renaud takes a turn voicing one of the forest animals. The Lorax is a grumpy creature, but fights to protect his world and the living creatures within. The fish in this movie are similar to what the Minions are in ‘Despicable Me.’ The lines and actions by the fish are my favorite scenes.

I left the theater very impressed with Ed Helms’ character, especially in his youth at the top of his game when business is booming. I recall having a happy feeling with the fish and other creatures, and then taken to an extremely opposite emotion as he is singing and dancing while destroying all that is around him. This is certainly worth the price of admission to the 94 minute film.

I highly recommend the film for families, but adults will enjoy it too even if they do not have a child to take along with them. The performances are outstanding and the story just can’t be beat!


RATING: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Prior to the start of this Saturday morning screening, a fellow critic and I sleepily grumbled about the early time the film was scheduled and then went on to discuss previous film adaptations of Dr. Seuss stories and how too few of them really captured the true essence of the source material. In fact, we agreed that the film versions usually added unnecessary filler and that the best adaptations of Dr. Seuss stories had been produced for television (Chuck Jones’ animated DR. SEUSS’ HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS). We did actually disagree on the merits of the adaptation of HORTON HEARS A WHO, but still had certain feelings of trepidation entering the latest movie version of a Dr. Seuss tale, THE LORAX. After viewing the movie, my pessimistic feelings were eliminated as I really enjoyed the film. The picture does have its flaws; however, in my opinion, the pros outnumber the cons.

Based on Seuss’ 1971 children’s book, directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda (both worked on DESPICABLE ME) tell the tale of the artificial and plastic city of Thneed and how it came to be. 12 year old Ted is in love and wants to win the heart of his dream girl Audrey (Taylor Swift). An artist, Audrey loves to paint pictures of trees-- real trees, not the plastic ones manufactured to replace the natural ones which no longer exist. Ted becomes determined to find a real tree to woo Audrey. Ted’s grandmother (Betty White) informs him that there is only one person, the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who may know of the existence of any trees in the world. Unfortunately, he lives outside the walls of the city. Ted finds the reclusive Once-ler and convinces him to tell the story of how all the trees were destroyed because of greed, despite the warnings of the guardian know as the Lorax (Danny DeVito).

Adapted by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul, the film version of THE LORAX remains faithful to the theme and message of Dr. Seuss’ original tale and takes it to another level by adding some timely and relevant elements to the story. The original Seuss tale mainly focuses on the negative effects of industry on the environment with greed as a driving force behind it. The screenplay stays true to this moral of the story, but has a greater emphasis on the downfall of greed. In light of the economic woes our nation faces, I can’t think of a greater spin to put on a children’s story. Granted, the themes do take the material to a more mature level which will probably require parents to discuss the film with their children to give them a greater understanding, but I truly believe it is an important life lesson that should be addressed between parents and children. Because of a great mix of these mature themes, the excellent animation, lovable characters, enjoyable humor, and fun songs, Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda have produced a great motion picture which the entire family can enjoy. I watched the 3-D version of the film and while it added a little bit more dimension and fun to some of the more thrilling sequences, I cannot deem it necessary to the movie’s enjoyment.

I have nothing, but praise for the wonderful cast who bring these characters to life. Danny DeVito is absolutely perfect for the gruff and still lovable little creature know as the Lorax. I cannot see anyone else in the role now. Ed Helms, who has previously shown his musical and comedic talents in TV’s THE OFFICE and THE HANGOVER movies, utilizes these skills well as the Once-ler. Here, the young version of the Once-ler is portrayed as a hipster musician and Helms gets to stretch his singing and guitar playing chops here. Zac Effron and Taylor Swift make superb contributions to the movie as Ted and Audrey. I also really enjoyed Betty White as the sassy spit-fire of a grandma. As the main villain of the tale, Mr. O’Hare, Rob Riggle brings much zest and glee to this hilariously evil character.

So thankfully, my fears were laid to rest as I really loved this film. As I didn’t find all the jokes and gags funny, it doesn’t earn my highest rating. Still, I highly recommend taking the kids to see this. I will even go so far as to recommend this movie for a full priced ticket. There really is no need to see it in 3-D, though. I believe the movie on its own would make for a wonderful night at the movies for the entire family.