This creates the plot’s framework where we’re taken back-and-forth between the past and present. It’s a potentially problematic structure as the time-shifting could get confusing to an unsophisticated child, but the two threads compliment each other well plus the writers and directors are rather deft at transitioning smoothly and clearly between the narratives (even if they could’ve made the task a bit easier by not making Ted and the young Once-ler look so similar; one blonde, one brunette—how hard can that be?).

The Lorax is a wonder to look at, boasting the best animation we’ve seen this side of Pixar and categorically the best work from the crew that brought us Despicable Me, Horton Hears A Who!, and rougher early efforts like Ice Age. Colors are rich and vibrant, characters joyful, with set designs full of invention and Seussiness (the trees are like cotton candy varietals that garnish curvy stalks).

And then on top of all that, there’s some truly eye-popping 3D. This re-emergent technology has long appeared to be in stasis with no hope for improvement regarding its minimal depth and over-priced value—but clearly this technology is advancing, and what’s on display here ranks with the best yet.  Not only does the world seem to go deeper into the screen, with objects more believably separated and authentically moving in space, but it also flaunts some legitimate “jump out at you” moments that made many in my preview audience (including myself) reflexively jerk back. Most 3D experiences haven’t been worth the extra coin. This one definitely is. I absolutely loved watching this movie.

Too bad this animated agitprop also starts to grate, even insult. It’s one thing to be pro-environment, and even have a tree-hugging spirit. It’s another thing entirely to not only villainize Business (big or otherwise) but to go so far as to categorically misrepresent reality. The mid-movie show-stopping number “How Bad Can I Be?!”—sung by the forest-killing Corporate Tycoon—is condescending at best and brainwashing at worst.

Yes, an animated film by its very nature is going to simplify any issue it broaches, and that’s fine; no one should expect this one to represent nuances such as how government regulations actually require the lumber industry to exponentially plant more trees than it cuts down. But to literally create a false metaphor so as to suggest that an industry is not replenishing its own renewable (and necessary) resource isn’t just unfair—it’s propaganda. Given that its target audience is still impressionable, it’s also irresponsible.

Which, in the case of this movie, is really too bad because—its propagandizing aside—this is such a wonderful, warm-hearted, smile-inducing spectacle of contemporary animated artistry. It also knows how to find levels of humor and energy rather than simply assaulting our senses for ninety minutes and, on the whole, is such welcome reason for the whole family to go to the movies.

It’s so good, in fact, that the positives definitely outweigh the over-bearing negative. Kids’ sensibilities will largely gravitate toward the former, and any concern for the latter is easily dispelled with the parental guidance of sharing how our country takes care to ensure that the USA will never become the wasteland seen outside Thneed-Ville. If they still want to go plant a tree and recycle to make doubly sure, then so much the better.

As Seuss purists go, I’d wager they may be surprisingly won over by the artistic interpretation even as narrative liberties are taken, as well as enjoy the amusing voice ensemble led by Danny DeVito and Ed Helms. But if anything makes them proclaim as the Lorax did “What’s that THING you’ve made out of my Truffula tuft?!” it’ll be the dogmatic over-reach of a theme that didn’t need the billy-clubbing.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: None.
  • Language/Profanity: One d-word.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Teasing a boy about wanting to kiss a girl. A boy has a crush on a girl. A girl kisses a boy on the cheek.
  • Violence: Action thrills, but nothing scary or violent.