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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Teamwork and family bonds strengthen this magical story.
Positive Role Models
A young girl is the heroine of the story, and she risks her life to save her parents. A usually selfish character is willing to act courageously to return to his family. A greedy villain gets his due. One comic-relief character (a thief from Arabian Nights) has a very exaggerated accent.
Violence & Scariness
The henchmen are brutal: They kidnap and take several characters hostage at knife point, and they burn an entire rare library's worth of books. Several characters are told they'll be killed. A villain commands an even scarier villain to "feast" on innocent characters. Characters fight and are obliterated. Some animals from books -- a Minotaur, flying monkeys, dragons, etc. -- might scare younger kids.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two young characters flirt; married couples embrace and kiss (briefly).
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Mild -- "damn," "for God's sake."
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Products & Purchases
None, unless you count references to fictional literary characters.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this family-friendly fantasy is based on author Cornelia Funke's best-selling young adult novel. As in the book, there's a dark tone to the story, and the threat of violence seems real (especially the death threats). The "inked" villains may disturb younger kids, although some of the fantastical elements are funny. Henchmen hold people hostage, threaten to kill people, and burn property, and characters are in serious danger through most of the film. There's mild flirting between two younger characters and a quick kiss and embrace between married couples. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Condensing such a rich and vivid story into a 100-minute film is no easy task. Even with a remarkable cast (three Oscar winners!), cool special effects, Hollywood's go-to leading man for period family films (Fraser), and a built-in audience, an adaptation can fall flat. And this one, for all of its entertaining allusions and literary jokes, isn't awe-inspiring enough to please the series' many young fans. The film's more Lemony Snicket than Harry Potter. About halfway through, the story starts to feel bogged down -- and despite some effects-heavy action near the end, the promising premise just doesn't deliver. And the comic relief is limited to Farid (Rafi Gavron), a cute but horribly accented personification of one of the thieves from Arabian Nights, and a couple of the doltish bad guys.
Mature kids may appreciate the dark tone, and even younger children will pick up on at least a few of the many literary figures that appear in the story -- like Rapunzel or the flying monkeys from Oz. But it's easy to get lost with so many characters (some real, some fictional, some caught in between) clogging the screen. While the central figures are compelling (a father and daughter who can conjure up anything they read is pure genius) and the movie is certainly action packed, the mystery and magic are gone once the credits roll.
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