It's impossible not to be charmed by "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," a 3-D animated rendering of the Seuss tale of environmental activism and the power of one person to make a difference.(Or in Seuss' words: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot / Nothing is going to get better. It's not.") Created with the participation of Seuss' widow Audrey Geisel -- in a sweet detail, the two young people in the story are named Ted and Audrey, after the Geisels -- this "Lorax" is a colorful treat.
Blown out gracefully from the brief Seuss book, and with a few catchy songs tossed in, "The Lorax" follows young Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) as he goes on a quest to find a tree for Audrey (Taylor Swift), the girl he wants to impress. They live in Thneedville, an entirely synthetic town with "not one living tree, " ruled over by a financial whiz who's learned how to market air in a bottle.
Venturing beyond the city's gated borders on the encouragement of his grandmother (the ubiquitous, delightful Betty White), Ted finds the Once-ler (Ed Helms), the architect of Thneedville's doom, who tells him how the region once bloomed with wonderfully fluffy Truffula Trees, protected by the Lorax (Danny DeVito, his wry mutterings perfectly cast). The Once-ler, an entrepreneur whose business growth caused reckless disregard for the land, is now a recluse, but his remorseful story inspires Ted to change things, one tiny sprout at a time.
Filled with blink-and-you'll-miss-it detail (Ted eats a cereal called Empty-Os for breakfast) and populated by a Seussian zoo of whimsical creatures (my favorites: a trio of harmony-singing goldfish), "The Lorax" moves along swiftly, barely giving us time to wonder at the rainbow of cotton-candy trees, their heads gently floating in the breeze. Directed by Chris Renaud, the film uses 3-D subtly and artfully, letting images waft toward us. Kids will be entertained -- and, perhaps, informed.
"A tree falls the way it leans," warns a character in the film. "Be careful the way you lean."
DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX
With the voices of Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate, and Betty White. Directed by Chris Renaud, from a screenplay by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, based on the book by Dr. Seuss. 86 minutes. Rated PG for brief mild language.