Green trumps greed in this pleasant, spirited take on Dr. Seuss' save-the-planet fable.
Respectfully sticking to the adaptation template set by 2008's Horton Hears a Who!, the creative team behind Despicable Me has turned Theodor Geisel's 1971 cautionary eco-tale into the most satisfyingly Seussian big-screen effort to date.
Armed with a splendid voice cast and a gorgeously rendered 3D CG landscape, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax entertains while delivering its pro-environment, anti-greed message wrapped in a bright package of primary colors that truly pop.
Universal should see no shortage of green when the Illumination Entertainment production opens March 2, packing an all-ages appeal that should sustain it well into spring break.
Zac Efron brings youthful wholesomeness to Ted, an idealistic 12-year-old whose ecological consciousness springs to life courtesy of his crush on his older and more enlightened neighbor, Audrey (agreeably voiced by Taylor Swift).
The character names served as a sweet shout-out by Geisel to his wife, Audrey, CEO of Dr. Seuss Enterprises and an executive producer on Lorax.
Determined to win her affection, Ted sets his sights beyond the plastic walls of the prefabricated town of Thneedville in search of the legendary Truffula Tree, with a little guidance from his spirited Grammy Norma (a terrific-as-usual Betty White).
His trek takes him to the foreboding, isolated home of The Once-ler (Ed Helms), a recluse who ultimately shares his tale of Thneed-fed greed: He stripped the Truffula Valley of its candy-colored vegetation despite the attempted intervention of the trees' guardian, an orange sprite with a yellow Rip Taylor 'stache called The Lorax (an ideal Danny DeVito).
Having blended the irreverent and touching to rewarding effect in Despicable Me, director Chris Renaud and writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (the pair previously got their Seuss on with Horton Hears a Who!) prove the right team for the job.
It all zips along pleasantly, elevated by those vividly pastoral visuals and that on-the-money voice cast, which also includes Rob Riggle as the villainous Aloysius O'Hare, a pint-sized heavy who has made his fortune selling bottled fresh air to the people of Thneedville -- his factories further polluting the atmosphere in the process.
Speaking of fresh, while the Dr. Seuss book was ahead of its time, parts of the film feel less so; the O'Hare character is somewhat reminiscent of Edna Mode in Pixar's The Incredibles, and Thneedville's visual and thematic cues are similarly evocative of the twin worlds of WALL-E.
Release date: Friday, March 2 (Universal)
Voices: Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate
Director: Chris Renaud
Screenwriters: Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio
Producers: Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy
Rated PG, 94 minutes