It may have been in 2D but in the '50s, Dr. Seuss blew kids' minds. Cats had hats, eggs were green and fish were red and blue - the children's books of Theodor Seuss Geisel expanded a decade's consciousness. Now years later, after a splash of Chuck Jones's cartoons, the live-action mugging of bendy face Jim Carrey and smug feline Mike Myers and the jaunty CGI of Horton Hears A Hoo, we have the Doctor's first venture into the third dimension.
The Lorax, first published in 1971, was an ecological fable about a strange moustachioed creature who spoke for the trees. Directed by Despicable Me duo Chris Renaud and Kyle Baulda, this modern high-tech version retains the heart and soul of the Seuss original but adds a futuristic streak. Zac Efron voices Ted, a young boy besotted with girl-next-door Audrey (a sassy Taylor Swift).
To impress her, he wants to find a real tree, long since extinct in the artificially created (and gloriously conceived) town of Thneed-ville. He heads out of the city limits to talk to the wild-eyed hermit known as the Once-ler (Helms), who regales the wide-eyed suitor with tales of a bygone age when the world was full of trees, lush with bright orange feathery foliage. Ted soon discovers it was the Once-ler who was to blame: he used the "leaves" to make a Thneed, a knitted object with millions of different uses that became the "must-have" object of the season. Drunk with success and against the warning of the Lorax (a delightfully gravelling DeVito), the trees were cut down to meet demand and the city of Thneed-ville rose from their ashes.
Ed Helms is the vocal stand-out, working wonders as the voice of the Once-ler, especially in flashback mode, his big musical numbers being the only songs that compare to the hilarious ditties penned by Bret McKenzie for The Muppets. The rest of the tunes are cute, especially when the aquatic Greek chorus of goldfish join in, but they don't pop as they should.
Visually, as you would expect, The Lorax is a feast of colour. The Dr Seuss's designs burst from the screen. Every care is taken to replicate the author's distinct visual style, but also slake modern audiences' thirst for eye candy.
The Lorax is definitely doing it for the kids. Adults may cringe at the finger-pointing propaganda, but this cautionary tale, despite being tie-dyed in '60s hippy-isms, is a story that still needs to be told. So, just don't be a grinch about it.
Bright and breezy and slightly preachy, this modern Lorax entertains but never soars.