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'Lorax' Speaks Loud, Clear And Green For Trees

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")

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")

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")

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")

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")

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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.