Astin and Ribisi play two gopher friends who's forest home is threatened by an evil businesswoman, voiced by Huston, who wants to build a highway in its place. With the help of an old oak tree, played by Perlman, the forest fights back with a vengeance. (I think they missed the boat by not having Viggo Mortensen play the oak tree.)
"In Lord of the Rings, my favorite element in the story was the Ents, these massive trees getting cut down that fought for their own survival; in Spirit, the trees also come to life," said Astin, pointing out the environmental message in both films. "It's another way of telling a story that needs to continue to be told. Progress comes at a price."
The Ents are one of my favorite LOTR moments too -- but honestly, the first thought on this film is that it sounds less like like Tolkien and more like Fern Gully crossed with Over the Hedge. But I don't know if that is really a bad thing, as any environmental message is a good one. Especially with how fast they vanish from the popular consciousness -- does anyone remember Happy Feet's lesson on overfishing and global warming? Probably not.
Spirit of the Forest is apparently already finished, and will premiere at Cannes next month. The release date will depend on who snaps it up there.