'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole'
Directors: Zack Snyder
Rated: PG for some sequences of scary action
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, David Wenham
Moviefone Mama Says: Zack Snyder making a family movie? It sounds a bit odd at first; he's not exactly a family specialist like Andy Fickman or Chris Columbus. But, in the style of Robert Rodriguez, who manages to create grown-up fare like 'Machete' and kiddie titles like 'Spy Kids,' Snyder uses his stylized approach to action-adventure in this sweeping adaptation about a Barn Owl named Soren. An owlet (Sturgess) who believes in his father's stories about a legendary group of warrior owls that guard all owls from danger, Soren is just the kind of hero children can root for -- even in the face of danger from an "owl supremacist" called Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his dictatorial mate Nyra (Helen Mirren), Soren stays true to his values and bravely embarks on a journey with help from owl friends like Gylfie (Emily Barclay), Digger (Wenham), Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia) and the sage Guardian Ezylryb (Rush) to save the owl kingdom.
Did You Know?: The voice of Soren's older brother and Pure One believer Kludd belongs to Ryan Kwanten, better known as Sookie Stackhouse's brother Jason on HBO's hit vampire soap 'True Blood.'
(Watch Ryan, Jim Sturgess and Zack Snyder in our exclusive Unscripted interview.)
3-D Factor: Definitely one of those rare children's movies that is worth the surplus fee, considering how talented Snyder and the Animal Logic effects team are with creating unique 3D shots.
Parent Concerns: Yes it's animated, and yes it involves talking owls, but there are some frightening scenes in the movie that may not be appropriate for the second-grade-and-under set. While there's no blood and gore like in '300,' several owls die (or, more specifically, are killed in battle). There's also kidnapping, fratricide and "master race" themes that are pervasive throughout the story. A good rule of thumb for these movies is that if your kid isn't old enough to read the books, she's probably not mature enough to handle the dark mood and occasionally violent sequences. If you do have younger ones who want to go, consider going to a 2-D screening to downplay some of the intensity. At the screening I intended, one kindergarten-aged girl cried so much during the climactic battle that her mom escorted her out of the theater.
(Related: Will 'Legend of the Guardians' Traumatize Kids?)
Here are three talking points to extend your moviegoing experience.
1. Page to Screen: There are 15 books in Kathryn Lasky's 'Guardians of Ga'Hoole' series published by Scholastic. Recommended for ages 8-12, the fantasy adventure will appeal to kids who enjoy similar genre sagas like 'Percy Jackson' and 'Harry Potter.' Ideally, you should read books and then see their film adaptations, but with kids' movies the excitement usually flows the other way, and that's a blessing, especially if you have a slightly reluctant reader.
2. Divided Loyalty: A great talking point in the movie is to discuss how Soren and Kludd compare and contrast. How are the two brothers similar, and what makes them act so differently once they're in the presence of the Pure Ones? What choices do each of them make that change the course of their futures? Is Kludd right that the Pure Ones offered him a chance to shine in a way that his own family did not? Kids: Would you forgive your brother if he betrayed you like Kludd?
3. Owl Tales: Like with 'Alpha and Omega,' there are bound to be questions from young viewers about owls, their habitats and life cycles ("What's up with those yucky pellets?" one boy asked his mother after a preview screening). Scholastic has a special facts page on its 'Guardians' site, where you can find out that elf owls (like Gylfie) are the smallest and grey owls (like Twilight) are the largest of the owls.
Three to See: Hero's Journeys
1. 'Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & The Wardrobe' is obviously live-action, but it's an adaptation of one of the most well-known heroes' journeys in literary history. The Pevensie siblings act bravely to save the magical land of Narnia.
2. 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' is the fifth installment in the seven-part (eight-movie!) Potter series, and it shows how Harry needs help from his friends, a group of Hogwarts friends dubbed Dumbledore's Army, to defeat Voldemort.
3. 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' isn't for the youngest in the family (unless they're tweens), but it's a fantastic, epic adventure about Frodo and his Fellowship of protectors and friends who attempt to save Middle Earth.
Get 'Legend of the Guardians' Showtimes & Tickets
'Legend of the Guardians' Review: It's 'Lord of the Rings' With Owls
Will 'Legend of the Guardians' Traumatize Kids?
'Legend of the Guardians' Unscripted: Ryan Kwanten, Jim Sturgess and Zack Snyder on Owl Voices and Crazy Fans