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Dr. Seuss classic delivers timely eco message

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Twelve-year-old Ted (Zac Efron) has such a big crush on the girl next-door (Taylor Swift) that he makes up lame excuses to ring her doorbell just so he can see her. He finally realizes he actually has a chance with adorably-cute Audrey the day she mentions that she’d marry on the spot the first boy to bring her a real, live tree.

She’s never seen one, since their hometown of Thneed-ville is an artificial environment where everything is plastic except for the citizens. What the kids don’t know is that their idyllic community is also walled-off from a contaminated outside world which has been turned into a vast wasteland as a result of pollution.

Intent on impressing Audrey, Ted asks his Grammy Norma (Betty White) where he might find a Truffula, the species of tree that once thrived in Thneed-ville. She, in turn, suggests he meet with the Once-ler (Ed Helms), a reclusive elder who resides way past the city limits.

So, Ted hops on his scooter and ventures out of town for the first time, and is shocked to see the widespread blight he’s been shielded from his whole life. Worse, it’s apparent that the desolation is due to the smog and sludge being spewed by an operation owned by Thneed-ville’s avaricious Mayor O’Hare (Rob Riggle).

That discovery conveniently dovetails with Ted’s consulting the wise, old Once-ler who, in a series of sobering tete-a-tetes, proceeds to teach the idealistic lad a valuable lesson about the importance of protecting the environment from greedy corporations. And the Once-ler even ‘fesses up about the role he played in the destruction of the forest when, over the objections of a tiny, planet-protecting creature called the Lorax (Danny DeVito), he harvested all the trees to make a quick buck.

Loosely-based on the Dr. Seuss children’s classic of the same name, The Lorax is an eco-friendly parable about the urgency of preserving the Earth’s natural resources. The animated adventure is blessed with a sweet story of puppy love, too, although Ted and Audrey’s budding romance tends to take a back seat to the picture’s primary agenda of indicting big business for putting profits ahead of people and the planet.

While the movie’s dire, apocalyptic scenario might scare some impressionable young’uns, most members of the target tyke demo are likely to take it all in stride, especially given the film’s fairy tale ending. An action cartoon featuring typical kiddie fare plus a timely message about conservation.

Posted 12:00 am, March 9, 2012
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