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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alpha and Omega: Family Vacation is the fifth entry in the ongoing Alpha and Omega movie series. As in the other adventures of Kate, Humphrey, and the pups, the adorable animals face a formidable enemy -- in this case, trappers sent by the government to capture as many wolves as possible and move them to a new habitat. Cartoon action -- with chases, wolf-napping, falls, gunfire, close calls, and mild suspense -- is integral to the story, and some jeopardy sequences from earlier movies are replayed in flashbacks. In a few tense moments, audience will wonder if wolf parents have survived an attack and may worry that a character seems dead, but she has only fainted. The nature of this wolf family (pack) and their relationships with other compatible forest creatures provides positive messages about family, friendship, and teamwork. A bit of potty humor includes a moose farting and a couple of comic "I have to pee" moments.
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What's the story?
In ALPHA AND OMEGA: FAMILY VACATION, it's travel time for Kate (Kate Higgins), Humphrey (Ben Diskin), and their pups (Stinky, Claudette, and Runt). They're on their way to Albert Creek Falls for beautiful sights and a wonderful time. Unfortunately, their journey takes them through the forest in the exact area in which two buffoonish government trappers are trying to save the caribou (a favorite wolf meal) by tranquilizing as many wolves as possible and relocating them. In their efforts to get to Albert Creek Falls safely, the pack faces obstacles everywhere -- lots of close calls and narrow escapes from the fierce trappers, who wield their tranquilizer guns with abandon. But, though the odds are against them, luck and good sense are on their side -- and so is a gang of old friends (porcupine pals, bird buddies, and a bear "bro"). First vacation, here they come!
Is it any good?
For young fans of the likable, popular Alpha and Omega wolf family, there's enough adorableness, adventure, cartoon jeopardy, and potty humor in this 44-minute episode to satisfy. The story invites thought and discussion, on a very elementary level, about what it means to displace a species from its natural place. So despite the by-the-numbers animation, slapdash nature of the production, and the filmmakers' reliance on sequences from earlier episodes to pad the film's running time, this movie has enough going for it to receive a mild recommendation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what happens when humans interfere with the natural order of things. Though in this story the government is trying to save the caribou by moving the wolves, how does it affect the wolves? How important is it to think ahead and understand the consequences of our behavior?
Look up the film term "flashback." In this movie, whenever Kate or Humphrey remembered an earlier event, a flashback occurred so that the audience would remember along with them. Where do you think the filmmakers found those scenes? In some cases, flashbacks serve a story purpose; in other cases, they save money for the production company because they can use film they've used at least once before. In this movie did flashbacks advance the story?
The comic villains in this story are stupid, mean, and hopelessly bad at their job. Do you think filmmakers portray villains this way in movies for kids because they're not as scary? Create (draw or write) a comic villain that might work in one of your favorite movie series.
What is a sequel? Why are they created? How do they usually compare to the original? Give some examples.
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