The Lorax puts a positive spin on Dr. Seuss' despairing ecological warning 

Too Big To Fail

Too Big To Fail

You'd think after Universal screwed the pooch and gave audiences not one but two reviled live-action adaptations of revered Dr. Seuss books, it would shy away from making any more movies from Theodore Geisel's canon. (Have you ever seen DVD copies of How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Cat in the Hat in the homes of your proud-parent friends? Didn't think so.) But after the smashing success 20th Century Fox had with the CGI-animated adaptation of Horton Hears a Who!, the studio decided to give it one more try and have served up a computerized cartoon take on The Lorax.

The 40-year-old Lorax is perhaps the most controversial of the Dr. Seuss books, its gloomy tree-hugging narrative blasted over the years by both child-protecting critics and logging-industry supporters. The movie stays loyal to the story's pro-environmental roots, retaining its premise of the green-limbed Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms) recalling to a young boy (Zac Efron) how he destroyed a woolly tree-covered utopia to manufacture his all-purpose "Thneed" garment, drawing the ire of the cranky, diminutive savior who speaks for the trees (Danny DeVito, of course).

This adaptation takes a more lightweight yet earnest approach, as the Despicable Me team of director Chris Renaud and screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul adds some sunny sugar to make the dark-themed medicine go down. The aforementioned storyline is wrapped around another more kid-friendly but still eco-conscious plot, as the boy — who is trying to find a tree to win the love of a high-schooler (Taylor Swift) — comes from the bright-colored yet completely artificial town of Thneedville, where nearly everything is plastic and fresh air comes in bottles and cans.

Since the movie is also peppered with adorable, amusing woodland creatures and shiny, happy musical numbers, kids will most likely stay entertained even when the story lags and the message lays a mallet upside the little ones' heads. The movie reminds both young and old how greedy, power-mad captains of industry can manipulate people into overlooking the damage they cause to both the environment and our perspectives. In its own fashion, The Lorax makes sure the public stays pissed at the 1 percent.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com

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