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the-lorax-still01On the occasion of Dr. Seuss’s 108th birthday comes “The Lorax,” a big screen animated adaptation of his most serious book. In seventy pages he laid out a plea to save the earth, one tree at a time. The message remains, but the spirit of the book is lacking.

Twelve-year-old Ted (voice of Zac Efron), hopes to impress a girl (Taylor Swift) by giving her a tree. You see, she’s never seen a real one because they live in Thneedville, a town where everything is fake. They live in plastic houses, and even the trees are battery operated. “It’s perfect,” they sing, “and that’s how it will stay.” The town is run by Mr. O’Hare (Rob Riggle) a business tycoon who made his fortune selling fresh air. He doesn’t want Ted to find a tree because trees make fresh air, and at would put him put of business. Meanwhile Ted’s search for the tree leads him to the Once-ler (Ed Helms), the keeper of the last tree seed, who tells him about The Lorax (Danny DeVito) and why all the trees disappeared.

By and large “The Lorax” is a pretty good kid’s flick. It has some good characters–DeVito is fun as The Lorax and a trio of singing goldfish, part Andrews Sisters, part Greek Chorus, are the best thing in the movie. There’s a strong central message for kids (particularly if they are interested in gardening) and some good laughs, but I left the theatre with the unshakeable feeling that It would have made a better short film. At 70 well thought out pages the book doesn’t quite offer up enough to fill out a feature length movie and as a result the movie feels padded and not quite what the Dr. Seuss ordered.

It just didn’t feel Suessy  or Seussian, or whatever the word would be, enough. Kids will like the cute creatures and the Lorax’s giant orange handlebar ‘stache, but it is too frenetic to be considered a faithful translation of a Seuss book.

The central “they paved paradise” themes of the book–not wasting our resources, loving the earth and its inhabitants and pollution–are hammered home, along with a strong anti-corporate message (“How bad can I be?” sings one greedy character, “I’m just building the e-con-o-meeeeee!”) are timely and heartfelt, but will probably be lost on the target audience for the movie, which would be kids from four to eight.

“The Lorax,” for all it’s charms, doesn’t really feel like Dr. Seuss. It just doesn’t feel green-eggs-and-hammy, or in non-Seuss terms, magical, enough.

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