Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, People of a Feather and a wild party in Project X

Two films have strong environmental messages this week: one’s an artful documentary; the other is animated for children.

With many Oscar winners still in theatres, there are only a few new films this week. One for kids is poised to be a big hit and a teenage party saga set to make a lot of noise.

Here’s the list:

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax:  3 ½ stars

People of a Feather: 4 ½

Project X: 2 ½

Putty Hill: 4

Jess + Moss:  3

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX: No, the Forest Action Network did not make this children’s film, although at times it seems it could have. That’s why Glenn Beck at Fox News has been slamming it for what he calls “indoctrinating” our kids with an anti-capitalist message. No, this is truly from the “Cat in the Hat” man although amplified by the people who made the wonderful Despicable Me animated film and are now working on a sequel. Dr. Seuss imagined a town without trees and an industrialist admitting responsibility for cutting them down to make a profit with a line of clothing.

This new version goes further with a more sophisticated slam at business (“I’m just building the economy,” says the tree cutter) and then adding a second businessman who seizes an opportunity. Since the air is getting dirty with no trees to replenish it, he sells bottled air. He turns nasty and reactionary when a young man (voiced by Zac Efron) wants to impress a girl (Taylor Swift) by finding a real tree for her. The ones around town are all plastic. He gets the tree cutter’s story and also meets The Lorax  (voiced by Danny DeVito) a small creature with a big handlebar mustache and a mission to speak up for the trees. Bright dayglo colors, quite good use of 3D and other modern touches (car, scooter and snowboard chases) make the film lively and busy. Not as heartfelt as Despicable Me but close and offering a good do-something message. (Park, Dunbar, International Village and many suburban theatres)  3 ½ out of 5

PEOPLE OF A FEATHER: There’s a form of movie poetry at work in this environmental film. It shows up in some astounding pictures that are smoothly edited together into a compelling and even entertaining examination of, wait for it, climate change. The approach is excellent. Rather than study the whole big issue abstractly, this film explains one example in detail with people who see it happening every day.

The Inuit of some islands in Hudson’s Bay harvest eider from the local ducks for clothing and seal meat for food. Both are getting harder to find these days. Quebec Hydro, not the usual suspects, is at fault. The utility releases more water from its dams in the winter when it has to generate more power. That has the effect of reversing the seasons for ice formation in the bay, changing the currents, making the ice unpredictable and either killing or chasing away ducks and seals. We spend a lot of time with the local people to get that story. We watch them make harpoons and rope, go ice fishing and eider gathering, kill a seal and eat raw meat. We watch the ducks diving for food and wolves and an owl prey on them. We get the old days of igloos and dog sleds re-created and contrasted with today’s snowmobiles, modern houses, TV,  MP3 players and a rap song by some village youth  We get all this in sparkling photography including some stunning time lapse sequences. Joel Heath, of east Vancouver, spent seven years up there studying the wildlife and made this superb film along with the local people to tell their story. (VanCity Theatre March 2-5 and Denman Cinema March 6-9. Check their websites) 4 ½  out of 5

PROJECT X: Five years ago, Superbad gave us three high-school guys trying to get to a party and get laid. Project X gives us three guys organizing a party so epic that it’ll boost their reputation and, maybe, get them laid. You can see, can't you, that this one is totally different. You also know what’s going to happen from the start, when the dad tells his birthday-boy son to have only a few friends over, “four or five tops,” to respect the house, stay out of his home-office and not touch his expensive car.

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Four good ones at VIFF take us to The Vatican, India, the Arctic and Hong Kong:

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