'Lorax' Speaks Loud, Clear And Green For Trees

To expand Dr. Seuss' slim volume to theatrical feature length, a whole lot of plot and heaping handfuls of characters needed to be invented. These new individuals are for the most part unpleasant, and the new aspects of the story are forced.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In the early days of the environmental movement, the children's author Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote a book about saving trees. That 1971 book has now been made into a film, opening today, "Dr. Seuss's The Lorax."

Film Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN: Movies always have monkeyed around with their source material, but "Dr. Seuss's The Lorax" actually apologizes for what it's about to do. The fuzzy orange Lorax, amiably voiced by Danny DeVito, steps out in front of a theater curtain and announces: There's more to this story than what's on the page. You have been warned.

Let's start with 12-year-old Ted, voiced by Zac Efron.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX")

ZAC EFRON: (as Ted) So, Mom, you happen to know if there's like any place where I can get a real tree.

TURAN: He's a miniature adult who uses breath freshener spray and has the wiseacre attitude of a Las Vegas lounge lizard. This irritating young man is infatuated with a girl named Audrey.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX")

EFRON: (as Ted) And she's not some girl. She's a woman - in high school - and she loves trees.

TURAN: Fortunately, real trees have disappeared from the town. The only person who seems to have a clue about them is Ted's grandmother, voiced by Betty White.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX")

BETTY WHITE: (as Grammy Norma) OK, here's the deal. The Once-ler is a man who knows what happened to the trees. You want one? You need to find him.

TURAN: Once the Once-ler is tracked down to a desolate area, he is rightly suspicious of Ted's motives.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX")

ED HELMS: (as The Once-ler) Why aren't you like other kids, break-dancing and playing with Donkey Kongs?

TURAN: The Once-ler eventually describes how his own youthful greed put him into conflict with The Lorax who, as every reader of the Dr. Seuss original knows, speaks loud and clear for the trees.

But to expand Seuss's slim volume to theatrical feature length, a whole lot of plot and heaping handfuls of characters needed to be invented. These new individuals are, for the part, unpleasant and new the aspects of the story are forced.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET IT GROW")

ESTER DEAN: (Singing) Let it grow...

TURAN: By the time a cheerful song tries to rescue the film at the end, the original Lorax has left the building and is not coming back.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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