'Alpha and Omega'
Directors: Anthony Bell and Benjamin Gluck
Rated: PG for rude humor and some mild action
Starring: Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Danny Glover, Dennis Hopper
Moviefone Mama Says: Although this Lionsgate and Crest Animation comedy, about two wolves trying to make their way back home, isn't on the same level as Pixar or DreamWorks' animated features, it's an amusing romance-driven animal tale, best suited for middle-graders and up. Kate (Panettiere) and Humphrey (Long) prove that the best relationships aren't based on class or popularity, but on love and friendship. Their journey back home to Canada, after getting whisked off to Idaho to "repopulate" (they don't), isn't all that epic or adventurous, but there are a few funny scenes with a golf-crazed Canadian goose (Larry Miller) and a British duck (Eric Price), whom they meet. There's more sexual innuendo (see "Parent Concerns") than expected; for every reference that will go over younger kids' heads ("Was it good for you?") there's one that they'll get and possibly repeat ("She's hot!"), so this movie is a better fit for upper-elementary children than pre-schoolers.
Did you know?: This is the late Dennis Hopper's final film (the actor died of prostate cancer in May), and the filmmakers dedicated to his memory.
3-D Factor: Yes for older kids who can keep the glasses on without squirming, but if you're on the fence, it's not one of those movies you must see in 3-D.
Parent Concerns: Not to sound prudish, but parents concerned about sexual allusions, no matter how benign, may have a problem with the number of romantic themes and jokes in the movie. There are some pretty blatant references (the above-mentioned "Was it good for you?" line after a male wolf howls to impress his date) and other subtler jokes (the word "howl" is sometimes used as code for "mate"). Easily scared younger children may be freaked out during a couple of scenes featuring aggressive wolves ready to fight each other and three angry bears chasing the protagonists.
Here are three talking points to extend your movie-going experience.
1. Wolf Tales: Is there such a thing as an "Omega" wolf? Are they the wolves that just lay about and make the other wolves laugh? Could an alpha and an omega really "defy the law of the pack" and mate together? I'm not a naturalist, but take a look at National Geographic's wolf page together and find out.
2. Let's Talk About ... Romance: Have a tween or young teen? Use the movie's dating and relationship themes to your advantage and have a conversation about that usually uncomfortable subject with your young adolescents. With Kate and Humphrey (and Lilly and Garth, the other wolves in love in the movie) as an example, talk about love and status and why it's personality and character that are important.
3. Animal Adventures: Find out why animal-based movies are so popular (and aliens, but that's a whole other conversation). What is it about human-seeming, talking animals that is so irresistible to kids? Which movies are generally better -- animated talking-animal films or live-action talking-animal films? Discuss your favorite examples.
Three to See: Talking Animal Favorites
1. 'Finding Nemo' is one of the best animated movies ever made. It's a funny and touching undersea adventure that even the youngest movie-goers will love.
2. 'Lady and the Tramp' is about inter-class relationships, too, but without all of the grown-up humor. The classic spaghetti-slurping scene is still so romantic and sweet.
3. 'Bambi' is heartbreaking to watch, because of that One Teary Scene, but otherwise it's a timeless story about how woodland animals take care of their own.