A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this French production's English-language version tackles issues of race, gender, class, and religion. Despite being set centuries ago, the story deals with more mature themes than many other animated films. The two main characters must overcome dangerous obstacles to save a fairy princess, all the while struggling with discrimination and cultural insensitivity. The majority of characters speak Arabic, and one character loves to point out everything that's "ugly" and "terrible" about the land's language and the people. Violence, while animated, is mostly realistic looking, with characters dueling, falling off cliffs, and facing trials of peril. The language includes mild insults and bigoted/superstitious remarks.
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What's the story?
In this English-language edition of an acclaimed, animated French production, the two titular characters, Azur (voiced by Steven Kynman) and Asmar (Nigel Pilkington), are both raised by Asmar's mother, Jenane (Suzanna Nour). Azur is a nobleman's son, and Asmar is the Arabic-speaking nanny's son. Despite being from opposite worlds, the two act like brothers until the lord of the house kicks Asmar and Jenane out and sends Azur to boarding school. Years later, Azur -- who believes Asmar and Jenane are dead -- travels to "the land across the sea," where he's determined to find and liberate the Djinn Fairy, an imprisoned fairy princess Jenane used to tell the boys about when they were young. When Azur arrives with his cursed blue eyes, he must overcome local superstition and his own bigotry to find the fairy -- something other adventurous suitors are also trying to do.
Is it any good?
Although the animation itself is quite stylized, the film's story and colors are original and beautiful. It's rare to find a children's film that tackles issues of race, class, and religion head-on, without sugar-coating them. There's nothing subtle about the way Crapoux, Azur's companion, trash-talks the Arabic language, the local superstitions, and the people themselves. Late in the film, when Azur and Asmar are reunited and accomplish their goal together, the story proves that underneath all of our differences, we're all the same. It's a lovely message and adds to why the whole family will enjoy this memorable adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's take on cultural prejudice. In what ways do Azur and Asmar have to overcome discrimination? The film takes modern issues of race, class, and gender and applies them to an old story. Is it effective? How does the character Crapoux learn his lesson? Kids: What do you think about the film's twist on the standard "happily every after" ending?
- In theaters: October 17, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2009
- Cast: Nigel Pilkington, Steven Kynman, Suzanna Nour
- Director: Michel Ocelot
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, some mild action and peril.
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