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Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

Animated characters Grammy Norma, Audrey and Ted in the film "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax."
"Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to get better."

That's the urgent moral of a beloved children's book now translated into a 3-D animated feature as "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" (Universal). This action-packed, candy-colored film for the entire family retains the charm of the original 1971 fable by Theodore Geisel while enhancing its central message: To wit, it's not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

Or, in this case, Father Nature, in the guise of the title character (voice of Danny DeVito). The legendary "guardian of the forest," the Lorax is a grotesque furry creature with a broad mustache. Chop down a tree or otherwise despoil the environment and you'll provoke a tongue-lashing from the Lorax — and a warning of dire consequences to come.

Since a spare, 61-page children's book does not a 94-minute film make, director Chris Renaud ("Despicable Me") and screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (who also adapted 2008's "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!") have considerably expanded Geisel's story, building their tale around a teen romance.

Our hip protagonist, Ted (voiced by Zac Efron, and named for Geisel), yearns for Audrey (voice of Taylor Swift, and named for Mrs. Geisel). Audrey, in turn, pines, so to speak, for just one thing — the sight of a real live tree.

You see, there are no trees in Thneedville, a town where every bit of the environment is artificial. Lording it over the locals is villainous Aloysius O'Hare (voice of Rob Riggle), who makes his fortune bottling fresh air and selling it to the public.

"Put anything in a plastic bottle and people will buy it," he says. "More smog means more air sales."

Thneedville wasn't always this way. The valley was once a lush paradise filled with truffula trees (cross a palm tree with cotton candy and you get the picture) and magical creatures, including Bar-ba-loots (bears), Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish, goldfish who can both walk and carry a tune.

According to Ted's dotty Grammy Norma (voice of Betty White), who remembers the good ol' days, the environmental disaster was man-made. Go and find the recluse called the Once-ler (voice of Ed Helms), she tells Ted; he knows what happened to all the trees.

Indeed he does. As a young, ambitious entrepreneur, the Once-ler defied the Lorax's warnings and harvested the truffula trees to make a miracle fabric called thneed.

Consumed with greed, the Once-ler ravaged the valley, displacing the animals. Eventually, the shame-filled, Grinch-like creature descended into madness.

Making the point that, in the end, no one is excluded from possible redemption, however, the Once-ler sees his encounter with Ted as a chance to restore the natural balance. But only if Ted "cares an awful lot."

"Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" offers a positive message about caring for God's creation while also respecting the needs of others. Its first-rate animation and catchy songs will make it an enjoyable outing for viewers of any age.

The film contains some cartoonish action. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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