Ava & LaLa

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Ava & LaLa Movie Poster Image
Mythic tale set in land of animals and danger is confusing.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 82 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Cautionary moments refer to humans as destructive to nature: "Since the dawn of time animals strove to live together, but one animal was unable to be peaceful and live among the others: man." Promotes sacrifice for others: "She who saves others saves herself." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Initially, Ava is a willful little girl, rude, disobedient, mischievous, and full of herself. Over the course of her adventure, she learns the value of friendship, honor, sacrifice, and gratitude. The many animals depicted in the film are either good or bad, not dependent upon species but upon the leaders they follow and whether or not they listen to their consciences. From the animals' perspective, humans are destructive and unredeemable. 

Violence

Frequent cartoon action, suspense, and jeopardy. Characters (including a little girl) engage in chases and lengthy battles, are captured, and in several instances appear to be dead for a few moments. They fall from high cliffs, are catapulted into the sky, are pummeled by rocks and eruptions, and clash in hand-to-hand combat. The final climactic action sequence is a very long confrontation between the film's heroes and a fearsome tiger and his army.

Sex
Language

Some name-calling: "stupid," "idiots." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ava & LaLa is an animated movie with lots of cartoon action. A little girl and her lovable half-tiger/half-lion friend are frequently in danger. Some fierce animals chase, capture, and battle the heroes. Characters fall from great heights and are pummeled by rocks, downed by firebombs, and knocked unconscious. Along with the jeopardy and conflict, the film offers a mystical or spiritual vision as well. The animals who live in an isolated world await the arrival of "the anointed one," a mysterious presence who will bring a new source of magical power to their land. There are messages aplenty about loyalty, sacrifice, gratitude, and respect for nature. Humans are unceasingly taken to task for their role in harming the environment. This DVD is an English-language version of a popular Chinese feature film. 

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What's the story?

Little Ava, a wannabe martial arts expert, is always in trouble when we meet her in AVA & LALA. She doesn't listen to her dad; she never wants to be told what to do; she's mischievous, loud, and rude. But one day, when she takes off on her own and meets LaLa, a cuddly, talking animal, part lion and part tiger, Ava gets into more trouble than she bargained for. Riding inside a magic whale, she and LaLa arrive on the island of Cloudland, where animals rule and humans are definitely not wanted. In fact, Ava is the only human present! When she's discovered, armies of animals set out to capture her. Though at first Ava loves the adventure and the intrigue, it isn't long before she realizes she desperately wants to go home. Meanwhile, a malevolent tiger, called "The General," anxiously searches for "the anointed one," a mysterious creature not yet revealed who possesses enough power to destroy all the humans in the world. The only thing standing in the General's way is Cloudland's kindly leader and Big Bear, the grudging protector of Ava and LaLa who must continually come to their rescue. It's all a race against time. Will Ava escape? Will LaLa find his true place among the inhabitants of Cloudland?  Will the General succeed in his evil plan? 

Is it any good?

The fantastical island is original and beautiful. Ava is endearing in spite of her naughtiness. But the viewer must follow an alarming number of "rules of the game," which, along with its twists and turns, make the story cumbersome and hard to follow. Examples of these "rules": Ava will be turned into an animal if she remains on the island for three days; "the anointed one" will be turned into stone at a certain time; nine distinctive "herds" must be unified before any action can be taken." Additionally, the movie lacks humor; what little there is often seems forced. Generally, it's an earnest effort but heavy-handed, too violent for little kids, and burdened by its rather clumsy attempts to combine spiritual concepts with adventure. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's underlying idea that humans are destructive and irresponsible. Name some specific human behaviors that might have led the animals to feel this way. What can be done or is being done to change that? How can you contribute to the effort? 

  • What did Ava learn from her adventure in Cloudland? In what ways might she be different when she returned to her home? 

  • Think about the tiger called "The General." Describe the visual and sound techniques the filmmakers used to make him fearsome and scary.

Movie details

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