Save a tree, Ride the ‘Lorax’

Hanging out with the Lorax at Universal Studios.

We grew up with Sam I Am, Horton the Elephant, the Grinch who stole Christmas and the Lorax. These classic characters from the Dr. Seuss canon brought us lessons like to try new things (like green eggs and ham), that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” and the joy of Christmas. In the case of the Lorax, we learned about conservation: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Directors Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda’s new movie “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” may embellish the story we know and love with catchy tunes, 3-D animation and celebrity voiceovers from young stars such as Zac Efron and Taylor Swift as well as comedic voices such as those of Ed Helms, Betty White  and Danny DeVito — but the core message remains the same.

We need trees.

Luckily, we have the Lorax, who speaks for the trees. Luckily for us, he’s in 3-D.

Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul’s screenplay adaption of Dr. Seuss’s popular book follows a boy (Zac Efron) in love with a girl (Taylor Swift) who wants a tree in a world that real trees don’t exist. On his quest to please his crush, he meets the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who recounts his tale. Daurio and Paul’s screenplay humanizes the Once-ler character as a boy with a guitar who wanted to pleased his family. Helms, known for his role as Andy in the TV comedy series “The Office,” brings over his singing and guitar playing skills (but not his dancing) to this 3-D animated film. In a flashback re-telling of the story of the trees, a young Once-ler is spotted singing catchy tunes such as “This is the Place” and “How Bad Can I Be.”

Co-directors Balda and Renaud, both known for working on “Despicable Me,” adopted some of the graphics and animation style to “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.” Fans of “Despicable Me” will notice that the movie’s antagonist, Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle), is similar to the character design of the villain Vector: nerdy with dark hair. The Brown Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, Humming-Fish and other Dr. Seuss critters living in the Truffula tree forest are just as adorable as the minions from “Despicable Me” — their antics just as comical and endearing. In one scene, the Lorax and his forest minions are seen taking over the Once-ler’s tent — eating all the butter in the fridge and sleeping in his bed.

Although the Lorax is nothing like “Wall-E,” Disney Pixar’s animated, similarly-themed film which also demonstrates the importance of trees (especially in the world of capitalism), “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” shows promise in bringing the magic of Theodor Seuss Geisel to life. With eye-popping animation, a potpourri of color and catchy tunes, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is a cute, charming and enjoyable film with a good moral. But was it worth the $16 to see it in 3-D? I think Dr. Seuss would have liked you to save a tree instead.

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