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 animated adventure focuses on two things being saved: the environment from corporate greed and a young girl's father from a dire situation. There's some violence -- as evidenced by a businessman who's armed to the teeth with advanced weapons that he plans to use against nature. The language never gets too salty but does include "stupid," "shut up," and similar insults, and there's some brief pushing and shoving and threats made by construction workers who hate their boss. Ultimately the movie's message is pro-nature and pro-family, but there's also some sorcery and magical creatures, which might not be a good fit for families sensitive to those sorts of characters.
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What's the story?
Mia (voiced by Amanda Misquez) hasn't heard from her father, Pedro (Jesse Corti), in a long time and has a vision that she should go look for him. He's actually trapped in an underground tunnel at his work site, which is run by a luxury real-estate development firm headed by Mr. Jekhide (John DiMaggio), who must take his own young son, Aldrin (Vincent Agnello), to a tropical island where he plans to build an exclusive vacation club. Aiding Mia on her trip to the remote island are her dead mother's good luck charms, a sorceress (Whoopi Goldberg), and eventually by the Migoo, a shape-shifting, marshmallow-like creature (Wallace Shawn) that can multiply into various versions of itself and whose job it is to protect the Tree of Life, a special "mother tree" that resides in the middle of the proposed development. Aldrin and Mia band together to both attempt to find Pedro and to try to stop Jekhide from destroying the tree.
Is it any good?
Despite its very obvious environmental message, this lushly animated drama is really the story of a father and daughter's love, and you can't argue with that. French director Jacques-Rémy Girerd won a best animated feature European Film Award in 2009 for this movie, but it took a couple of years for this the beautifully animated adventure to make its way to wide release -- and it's easy to see why. This isn't the typical Pixar or Blue Sky production with marketable heroes and an easy-for-kids-to-follow storyline. There's aren't any A-list comedians voicing the characters, and the movie's message about saving the environment is buried in a mysticism that isn't what many families expect when they go to a matinee together. That said, it's worth expanding your film horizons, and this richly animated, pro-nature, pro-family story is a lovely, memorable film, particularly for mature kids who want something beyond the Happy Meal-toy cartoons.
The Migoo, especially as voiced by Shawn, are sweet and lovable, and they provide a perfect contrast to the hard- and cold-hearted Jekhide, who doesn't have the first clue how to parent his kind, gentle son. The friendship between Aldrin and Mia is adorable and shows just how much a boy and a girl can accomplish if they put their differences aside and work together. And above all, Mia and Pedro's bond conquers every perceivable obstacle so that the father and daughter can be reunited.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's message. How does it propose that we can each make a difference in helping the world? Do you like movies with strong messages about a particular topic?
Compare the two father-child pairs in the movie. How are Mia and her father portrayed versus Aldrin and his father? Which characters are role models? Why?
- In theaters: April 22, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: August 7, 2012
- Cast: James Woods, John DiMaggio, Wallace Shawn, Whoopi Goldberg
- Director: Jacques-Rémy Girerd
- Studio: GKIDS
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements, some peril and brief mild language
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