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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

By
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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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