I've really enjoyed reading the wide-ranging GR reviews of this, from those that find it laughable to the most reverent, and both sorts of opinions have come from readers I respect. I thought the book was already among my reads, but after seeing the movie yesterday I checked my shelves and didn't find it. So I'm adding it to say that as literary fables go, I think it's brilliant, and I enjoyed the screen adaptation, and in 3-D it's delicious eye candy.
Is the story almost too fantastical and the moral obvious? Yes, because it's a fable. What makes it a brilliant and a literary one, in my opinion, are the language and the crafting and a moral rooted in humane ethics and not dogma. I don't deny the validity of some criticisms, but I think some rulings -- pro and con -- are based on criteria for things that this story is not. Or to put it another way, the rulings should be based on the criteria for what it is -- a fable, which is a genre with a long history in the folk life and literature of many cultures. Fables rarely turn up these days, at least not in American publishing, and I for one am happy this one did and would like to read more of them.