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'The Lorax': Dr. Seuss it's not

Published March 14. 2012 05:01PM

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" splashes a rainbow palette across the screen, sets up exciting chase scenes, has voice talent that bursts excitedly from its big-headed computer animated characters' mouths and sets up a half-dozen brassy pop-rock song sequences.

What's not to like?


For one thing: the gentle, quivery, almost naive drawings of Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991, writing and drawing under the pen name of Dr. Seuss), coupled with those charming couplets and wacky wordplays are far from the hyper animation of "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax."

The movie title suggests the film-makers are reminding us, nay, insisting that this, indeed, is Dr. Seuss. So far from the source material has the movie strayed that there's little to identify it as particularly Seussian.

The four big-screen adaptations ("How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Cat in the Hat," "Horton Hears a Who," "The Lorax") of the beloved and critically-acclaimed Dr. Seuss books haven't translated well. The 11 television adaptations, four television series and even the musical ("Seussical") have fared better in hewing to the inherent cleverness and joy that is Dr. Seuss.

What's missing in the animated versions of Dr. Seuss, or any graphic novel, ne comic book, is the space between the pages and the missing scenes between the panels. We fill in those with our imagination.

At 24 frames per second, film is a demanding taskmaster. With Seuss, in particular, what's left out is as important as what's included, or, in the case of "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," what is added.

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax " is busy and bold and overwhelming. It's as though the film-makers were on a sugar-high when they made it. That seems to sit well with the movie's target audience of those age 10 and under, who may be hyped by candy and soda from the concession stand.

The voices in "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" are quite good, especially that of old pro Danny De Vito as The Lorax. Nobody says irascible like DeVito. Betty White is equally distinctive as Grammy Norma. Zac Efron as Ted (the Boy), Taylor Swift as Audrey and Ed Helms as The Once-Ler fare less well.

Director Chris Renaud ("Despicable Me") and co-director Kyle Balda ("Toy Story 2" directing animator) have a good sense of animation pace.

The weakest element of "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" is the screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (both, "Hop," "Despicable Me," "Horton Hears a Who," "Santa Clause 2") based on Dr. Seuss' book.

There's not much of a story line: something about the need to not deforest the entire earth. The comedy tropes one expects from animated features are missing. The guy writing the lines for The Lorax seems out to lunch.

The 3-D effects are OK. There are a few good zingers but not enough to make you feel you've missed out if you see the movie in standard format.

The aforementioned songs seem to be shot out of a cannon. The are the stuff of generic pop-rock, most written by John Powell and Cinco Paul.

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" should please young children or young grandchildren.

After you take them to see it, read the book with them.

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for brief mild language; Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy; Run time: One hour, 24 minutes; Distributed by Universal Studios.

Credit Readers' Anonymous: "The Hustle" by Van McCoy adds some fun to a scene in "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax."

Box Office, March 9: "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," after opening at No. 1 March 2 on the 108th birth date of Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), was No. 1 again, $39.1 million, $121.9 million, two weeks; keeping another literature-sourced movie, "John Carter," based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs story, "A Princess of Mars," opening at No. 2, $30.6 million.

3. "Project X," $11.5 million, $40.1 million, two weeks; 4. "Silent House," $7 million, opening; 5. "Act of Valor," $7 million, $56.1 million, three weeks; 6. "A Thousand Words," $6.3 million, opening; 7. "Safe House," $4.9 million, $115.8 million, five weeks; 8. "The Vow," $4 million, $117.6 million, five weeks; 9. "This Means War," $3.7 million, $46.8 million, four weeks; 10. "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island," $3.6 million, $90.7 million, five weeks

Unreel, March 16:

"21 Jump Street," R: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team in the action-comedy remake of the popular TV show that starred Johnny Depp (in a cameo here) as police officers who go undercover in a high school in an attempt to bust a drug ring.

"Case de mi Padre," R: Will Ferrell stars in the comedy about two brothers who war with a Mexican drug lord, directed by Matt Piedmont (TV's "Funny or Die Presents ... ") in his big-screen directorial debut.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: and on Facebook.

Two Popcorn Boxesout of Five Popcorn Boxes

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