DVD Release Date: August 7, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: March 2, 2012 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D)
Rating: PG (for brief mild language)
Genre: Animated
Run Time: 94 min.
Director: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Cast: Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle

There’s a lot to praise—and even love—in the latest animated adaptation of Theodor Geisel’s work. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is a beautiful and entirely captivating visual feast, with cuteness and adorability in charming excess. Yet it’s almost done in by one of the most ham-fisted examples of didactic liberalism to come out of any major studio release for quite some time (animated or otherwise).

I stress “almost” because its strengths not only save it but actually transcend its moralizing. This is a treat to be indulged in the theaters, and in 3D. I dare say it’s a major accomplishment in modern animation. The Lorax’s optical “wow” factor is high and occasionally off-the-charts. But as the film progresses, it builds from being a sensible parable about conservation to bald-faced demonizing of corporations.

The story opens with a high-energy pop-style Broadway chorus tune that sets a spectacular foundation—tonally and visually—for what’s to come. It’s set in the town of Thneed-Ville, a walled-in community teaming with life that is completely artificial; even air is produced and sold. The need for air production is due to the fact that there are no longer any trees (key organisms for photosynthesis, the naturally occurring process that releases oxygen into the atmosphere). 

Young Audrey (country music superstar Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day) dreams of having a real tree, not just the ones painted on the side of her house or the electrical gizmos that adorn the streets. Hoping to win her heart, Tweenager Ted (Zac Efron, New Year’s Eve) follows the advice of his Grammy Norma (Betty White, You Again) to sneak outside Thneed-Ville’s barriers and track down the mysterious Once-ler, a hermit rumored to hold the truth of where a seed may still exist.

Zooming out into the barren wasteland on his zippy uni-scooter, Ted finds The Once-ler (Ed Helms, The Hangover Part II) hidden in a rickety old shack under self-imposed exile. From behind the boarded-up walls, The Once-ler begins to tell the tale of how the once tree-filled landscape came to its lifeless ruin. It is a story at which The Once-ler’s younger self plays an important part, and the mythical Lorax (Danny DeVito, When in Rome)—the guardian of the forest—serves as comic relief, Seussical poet, and moral conscience.