It was quite an adventure trying to see "The Lorax" last weekend.
Accompanied by three of my friends' daughters, I arrived at Great Escape for a 12:30 p.m. show that was ... sold out.
Recalling a 12:55 p.m. screen-time downtown, we dashed off to Cinema Center - but their online credit-card system was down, and I had only $5 in my wallet.
In this film image released by Universal Pictures, animated character Lorax, voiced by Danny DeVito, center, stands with the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish in a scene from “Dr. Seuss' The Lorax.”
So (after a stop at Rita's Italian Ice to kill time) it was back to the mall for an even later show, where we killed another 45 minutes visiting the arcade, using the rest rooms and playing with our 3-D glasses.
I wish I could report that the film was worth so much trouble.
Based on Dr. Seuss' 1971 book, "The Lorax" is by no means bad; but like the recent "Grinch" and "Horton," it has trouble stretching Seuss' modest tale out to feature length.
With Seuss' widow, Audrey, serving as exec producer, the movie follows the book pretty closely, adding a love interest for the young protagonist, who lives in a wholly artificial town (even the vegetation is inflatable!) - and whose interest in real trees is sparked by a lovely neighbor-girl who wants one.
Fittingly, she's named Audrey - and he's Ted, which was Seuss' real name.
Ted eventually learns that the walled-off countryside around his town is barren of vegetation - all cut down by "the Once-ler," who now regrets his environmental abuse and urges Ted to care "a whole awful lot" about the natural world.
Also added to the tale is a slimy corporate bigwig selling fresh air to townfolk - since there are no trees to produce it; of course, he opposes any attempt to revive his sylvan competition.
I loved the film's critique of the way big business repackages things that are readily available in the natural world (fresh spring water! pine-scented candles! 3-D visuals!). And "The Lorax" simply nails its title character - a model of compassion, dignity and controlled outrage, beautifully animated and perfectly voiced by Danny DeVito.
It's touching how he and his fellow-creatures refuse to fight back with the same viciousness humans use against them.
Yet despite these virtues, the slender storyline is slowly paced and poorly padded out with slapstick, lame 3-D effects and two early songs so tin-eared I could scarcely believe they came from the pen of John Powell (Oscar-nominated for his "How to Train Your Dragon" score).
On a side note, Ed Helms - star of "The Office" and the "Hangover" movies - voices the Once-ler and provides guitar work on these tunes.
The terrific final song goes a long way toward compensating for the first two - and the feel-good ending seems likely to satisfy most family members.
But I felt frustrated spending my entire afternoon on this; surely a few hours outdoors on that gorgeous day would've been more in line with Seuss' message.