The Lorax (Rated G) 4 Stars 03-21-12-lorax.jpg

Somehow The Lorax (86 minutes) manages to irritate almost everybody while still raking it in at the box office. While the film had the biggest open-ing weekend of any theatrical release based on a Seuss book, it is hard to find people with good things to say about it. Honestly, yes, the songs are cheesy and the movie is a simplified version of a philosophically complex story much-loved by children every-where. But you know what? It still made me cry.

Director Chris Renaud (with some assistance from Kyle Balda) reunites with his Despicable Me screenwriter Ken Daurio to expand the classic story into a feature length piece, with mixed success. The wacky Thneed-Ville sub-plot takes away from the story of the boy and the Once-ler, and the chase scene at the end of the film goes on way too long.

Of the three background species most affected by the industrial deforestation of the truffula trees, only the Bar-ba-loots (in their Bar-ba-loot suits) are men-tioned by name. For those of you wracking your brains in an attempt to recall the other two, they would be the Swommee Swams and the Humming Fish. You’re welcome.

We start with Ted (Zac Efron), deep in the throes of puppy love. The object of his affection, Audrey (Taylor Swift), is pining after a real tree. Since Thneed-Ville is composed of plastic and Astroturf, real trees and the seeds that grow them are in short supply. Luckily, Ted’s Grammy (Betty White) knows where he can get more information. But instead of sending him to the Thneed-Ville library or showing him how to Google, Grammy (who clearly has it out for Ted) sends him into the polluted wilds that surround the town to speak with the creepy loner known as the Once-Ler (Ed Helms). While I would say this scenario definitely falls into the category of stranger danger, Ted willingly wanders through the sewage and smog of the devastated wastelands, searching for a copy of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

Once on the Street of the Lifted Lorax, he settles in to hear the story of how capitalism ruined the pristine wilderness and killed cute fuzzy creatures. He hears the story over several days, interspersed with travel in and out of his planned community. Periodically, he is bullied by Mr. O’Hare of O’Hare Air (Rob Riggles), who, despite running a major industrial concern, still has plenty of time to track and harass the citizenry.

Thus is revealed the story of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), who speaks for the trees. Just as in the original, the Lorax spends a lot more time lecturing the Once-ler than he spends using his magic Lorax powers to actually save the Truffula Forest and its inhabitants. And, just as in the original, after the Once-ler figures out how to exploit a few natural resources, he brings in the rest of his family to finish despoiling the natural beauty. Eventually, he is left devastated and alone, telling his tale to pilgrims who come seeking knowledge.

As much as I love the story, it seems to me to be marred by a few basic flaws. For instance, if the Once-ler spent so much time hoarding the last Truffula seed, why didn’t he plant it himself? And if Grammy knew where to find the Once-ler, why didn’t she take Ted herself instead of sending him through miles of rusting metal on a flimsy plastic scooter?

Overall, if you can get past the environmentalists complaining about how poor sponsor choices undermine the essential message of the film (Really? A Truffula Tree approved SUV?), and then ignore the far right accusations that the film is a transparent attempt to indoctrinate the youth of America into becoming “eco-warriors,” you’ll probably enjoy it. That is, if you can get past the fact that the film spends a bit too much time subtly mocking a beloved kid’s classic.

Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.

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