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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Air Borne tells the story of a brave young mouse and his growing band of allies who work together to save lives and defeat a powerful villain. It's a straightforward tale, easy for kids follow. Part of the adventure focuses on the difficult journey the heroes must take simply to get to the island upon which the danger lies. But the real action begins once they take on the legendary Winston, leader of a ferocious colony of weasels. Battles are fierce: The drooling, fang-baring, glittery-eyed mammals attack and attack again. The mice use all manner of weapons and cunning to survive, against all odds. There are falls, crashes, menacing jaws and claws, as well as many narrow escapes. Two strong-featured good guys meet violent deaths, one in a particularly heartrending sequence. Strong messages about not giving up, working as a team, standing up to a bully, and having compassion for others are nicely woven into the plot. At more than 90 minutes, the film may be too long for some kids, and it's not suitable for kids who aren't comfortable with imaginary violence or are especially sensitive to sadness.
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What's the story?
Gavin, an adorable little city mouse (voiced by Nash Grier, a YouTube sensation) and his best buddy, Matthew (Jimmy Tatro, another YouTube personality) are getting a little tired of life in the city in AIR BOUND. They're looking for adventure. In fact, the very existence of oceans out in the world means there's more in the world than alley cats and low food supplies. So, the ocean it will be. They're happily making their way when, suddenly, adventure finds Gavin and Matthew! It's a combination of a horde of ship mice and Chester (Michelle Ruff), a tiny frightened mouse from a far-off land who is desperately in need of help. His family and all the mice on Dream Island are being destroyed by the nefarious Winston (Jon Lovitz, having a great time playing maniacal), a brutal weasel, and his army of predators. Gavin, much braver than he looks, is game to try. It takes some convincing, but a small band of mice answer his call. They're off on a perilous trip that finds them all in danger from both the mountainous terrain of Dream Island and the relentless evil of the weasels. The odds are long; the stakes are high; and the battles are intense. Gavin and Matthew, indeed, find the adventure they were looking for.
Is it any good?
Appealing, often funny characters and a clear-cut story of good vs. evil keep this Japanese-American coproduction swiftly moving, action-packed, and engaging. In addition, there are solid examples of teamwork, courage, and brains over brawn, which give additional heft to Air Bound. Production values, including animation, and performances are fine. It's long -- 94 minutes -- which might test the staying power of some kids. And it's way too violent for little ones or for those who are not ready to handle on-camera death scenes of likable mice. This is a competent, if peril-heavy, effort by filmmakers who are obviously hoping for a successful run, as evidenced by the final scenes that seem to call out for an Air Bound 2.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence often included in movies meant for kids. Why is it important for children to understand real vs. pretend violence before watching a film such as Air Bound? How does your family determine which movies are appropriate for you?
Find out more about the behavior of weasels. It's a fact that the species survives by eating mice and other small creatures as a part of the natural order, but it's clear that the filmmakers exaggerated their viciousness for the purposes of telling a good story. Write a short story in which a weasel is the hero, using one of that mammal's natural enemies as the villain. Notice how each species is both victim and predator in the circle of life.
Think about the ending of this movie. Do you think Gavin and his friends left the beautiful, now safe Shelter Island because they really wanted to go back to the city and ships they lived on earlier, or is it a way for the filmmakers to set up another Air Bound adventure? Would you want to see a sequel?
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2017
- Cast: Nash Grier, Jimmy Tatro, Jon Lovitz
- Directors: Tomohiro Kawamira, Yoshiko Kimori
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, dogs, and mice, Misfits and underdogs, Wild animals
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: action/peril
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