A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet is an artistic animated film that adapts eight of the Lebanese poet's most famous pieces from The Prophet. Produced by and featuring the voice talents of Salma Hayek (who's of Lebanese descent), the movie's story about a political prisoner (voiced by Liam Neeson) is a framing device that's interwoven with vignettes interpreting the poems. Two of the segments include couples kissing fairly passionately and dancing a sultry tango. The complexity of the dialogue and the big themes might be a bit mature for some kids, but older tweens and teens still interested in animation may find it a thought-provoking exploration of life's big issues.
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What's the story?
Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet is one of the most enduring pieces of inspirational fiction and spiritual enlightenment in world literature. KAHLIL GIBRAN'S THE PROPHET -- a labor of love from producer/star Salma Hayek (who is of Lebanese ancestry on her father's side) -- is a collaboration with a series of well-known animators. The framing story follows Almitra (voiced by Quvenzhane Wallis) a selectively mute, curious young girl who accompanies her widowed mom (Hayek) to her job caring for a political prisoner, the poet/prophet Mustafa (Liam Neeson). Mustafa is under house arrest in the foreign city of Orphalese, but he's unexpectedly and mysteriously granted amnesty if he immediately returns to his home country. Upon his release, Mustafa grants a series of impromptu sermons/blessings/parables (taken straight from the poetry book) to various people he meets on his way to board the ship bound for home.
Is it any good?
A lovely if occasionally uneven exploration of Gibran's epic poem, the movie is visually beautiful and thematically inspiring, although a bit mature for the usual young fans of animated dramas. Hayek brought together nine different animators to bring The Prophet to life, and the result ranges from lovely to inspiring to overly sincere. The framing story looks more like big studio animation, and as Mustafa comes across various groups of people, he imparts his gentle wisdom on a variety of topics related to a life well lived: marriage, love, children, work, death, etc. -- with different animators interpreting the poems' messages.
By far the most beautiful segment is "On Work," directed by septuagenarian artist Joan Gratz, whose "claypainted" animation gorgeously captures the theme of how "work is love made visible." French animator and graphic novelist Joann Sfar directed the "On Marriage" vignette, an intimate tango that perfectly illustrates why lovers should retain a sense of self within their togetherness. The music always matches the mood: Irish crooners Damien Rice and Glen Hansard provide original songs, and Yo-Yo Ma contributed his talents to the evocative score by Gabriel Yared. As for missteps, Neeson's instantly recognizable Irish accent is miscast in the role of Mustafa, as is the character's change from a wise foreign-born teacher (in the book) to a doomed political dissident (in the movie). Kudos to Hayek for offering a way for younger audiences to connect to Gibran's words, but don't be surprised if younger kids are bored or confused by the film's philosophical musings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages of The Prophet. Which of the poetic parables spoke to you the most? Why? Is it as easy to understand something when it's presented in the form of a poem?
Which of the characters are role models? Why? Is it clear who's "good" and who's "bad" in the beginning? What about later on? What does that tell viewers?
Although the source book is Lebanese, the movie's voice cast is international. What do you think of an Irish actor (Neeson) playing a Middle Eastern character?
The poems are all animated by different animators; what did you think of their styles? Did you like some of the segments more than the others? Why?
- In theaters: August 7, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: February 2, 2016
- Cast: Liam Neeson, John Krasinski, Salma Hayek
- Directors: Roger Allers, Tomm Moore, Joann Sfar
- Studio: GKIDS
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including some violence and sensual images
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