Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
Directed by Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
With the voices of Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift
There are two romances in the animated film "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" that are not found in the 1971 book.
The one between 12-year-old Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) and high-schooler Audrey (Taylor Swift) has been added to the script, but the other blossoms between two original characters: the nature-destroying Once-ler (Ed Helms) and his tree-hugging nemesis, the Lorax (Danny DeVito). That relationship - more of a bromance, technically - works because the two actors put so much heart into their roles, and also because of the compassion and complexity built into Seuss' ecological fable.
The Once-ler is not a corporate monster, but a bright-eyed pioneer reaping the bounties of a Seussian frontier. Chopping down fluffy Truffula trees and displacing cuddly Bar-ba-loot bears, he's a villain, but - like the Grinch - one worthy of salvation. Likewise, the Lorax is no gentle forest fairy, but a mustachioed grouch who "speaks for the trees" in DeVito's distinctive New Jersey rasp.
Though their outlooks differ, the activist and the businessman become an endearing odd couple.
The added story of Ted and Audrey - they're trying to save the last living tree from the clutches of an antinature tycoon - isn't as compelling, and many of the movie's jokes are beyond tired.
But those tufted Truffulas look great, with their swirly tops, and the animation generally feels livelier than other Illumination Entertainment productions like "Despicable Me." Where "The Lorax" succeeds, it's by letting its Seussian spirit shine through.