<p>The Lorax (voiced by Danny Devito) demands to know who chopped down the Truffula Tree. <em>*Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment (MCT)</em></p>

The Lorax (voiced by Danny Devito) demands to know who chopped down the Truffula Tree. *Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment (MCT)

Stars: Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito
Director: Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda
Rated: PG
Showing: Speciality Cinema week of Friday, April 6. For more information call 292-2135.
Tickets: Buy tickets online
Runtime: 94 minutes
Animation/family

From the day it was published, Dr Seuss' environmental parable The Lorax has courted controversy. A screed about consumerism, greed and its cost to the environment, this anti clear-cutting tale prompted protests in lumber-country school districts and recently inspired attention-starved Fox Business News anchor Lou Dobbs to attack its "indoctrination".

The gorgeous and glorious new film of this fable from Universal's Despicable Me team turns a somewhat gloomy, cautionary tale into a 3D musical, with catchy tunes and gags borrowed from every film from Toy Story to Babe.

But the message is as obvious and irritating to those who resent the Clean Air Act as ever.

Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) lives in Thneedville, where everything is packaged, paved over and plasticized. He doesn't know things weren't always this way, or notice how bad things are until he tries to impress his cute redheaded neighbor, Audrey (Taylor Swift), and she shows him her mural.

"What are those?"

"TREES."

Audrey longs to see a real tree, so Granny (Betty White, of course) sends Ted off into the wastelands outside the city in pursuit of the Once-ler (Ed Helms). And the Once-ler tells Ted the tale of how he deforested the Seuss-scape long ago, all in the name of profit. He remembers the warnings of the Lorax (Danny DeVito), and how he ignored them.

The film is a feast of bright, Seuss colors and wonderful Seuss design - all curvy, undulating lines and shapes. The 3D kicks in as Ted dodges axe heads and the Once-ler is sent hurtling down river rapids.

And the songs are a stitch - Helms warbling ‘Everybody needs a thneed’, advertising his new scarf-like product made from the Truffula trees.

Lorax takes on echoes of Wall-E as it embraces its gloom - the Once-ler's replacement entrepreneur/villain is a fellow who has figured out how to bottle and sell clean air. But it's all a set-up for the redemption song, the gospel-tinged ‘Let it Grow’.

That's when it becomes obvious why the Seuss rhymes here are subdued, saved up for big moments when they'll have the most impact. That's when the warning of the Lorax - "Unless" - threatens the Lou Dobbses of this world with extinction.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Next attraction: Wrath of the Titans