A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's lots of cartoon action in this film but no one gets seriously hurt. Characters fall from great heights and immediately come back to fall again just moments later. The hero and others are captured, then escape and immediately come back to get captured again. With a mix of animation and live-action, there are swashbuckling pirates, threatening sharks, scary hounds, unhinged authority figures, and a fire-breathing dragon with ghostly accomplices. Ominous music and spooky colors and sound effects heighten the suspense, but except for the youngest or most sensitive kids there's no real sense of jeopardy.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Timid and fearful Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin) can recite accident statistics for nearly everything that might be fun. When he's sent on an errand riding the bicycle that he's "enhanced" for safety, Richard gets caught in a storm and takes refuge in a strange library, with an even stranger librarian (Christopher Lloyd, replaying his oddball inventor from Back to the Future). A fall and bump on the head transport Richard into an animated world of books and fictional characters. He's desperate to find his way home. In his efforts, he is accompanied by three cartoon books: Fantasy (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg), Adventure (Patrick Stewart), and Horror (Frank Welker). Together the team gets into and out of lots of trouble until Richard finds the courage to make his own way back to the library's illusive "exit" sign.
Is it any good?
The concepts behind this movie are admirable. A young boy who is fearful ultimately finds the courage to participate in life, and kids learn the joy to be found in various genres of literature and books. The execution, however, fails to illuminate the messages in either a clear or imaginative way. Fictional characters are introduced in a smattering of short action scenes, which neither make them appealing nor give them any purpose other than to battle and do harm. The scenes that are supposed to inspire Richard's courage are so badly constructed that the audience never experiences the boy's move past his fears to save himself or his friends. Worst of all, with the exception of one cleverly-drawn scene in which a painting deconstructs to wrap the library in brilliant color, the animation is unimaginative and ordinary at best.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between real fear and imagined fear. What are you afraid of? Which fears do you have that you think might be exaggerated or not based on reality?
Richard meets an array of fictional characters in the library. What are some of your favorite fictional characters? Do you ever imagine that you're a part of their stories or even that you are that character?
What are some of the best things about having a good imagination? Can you identify the line that separates "pretending" and "lying"?
- In theaters: November 23, 1994
- On DVD or streaming: May 28, 2002
- Cast: Christopher Lloyd, Macaulay Culkin, Whoopi Goldberg
- Directors: Joe Johnston, Maurice Hunt
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures
- Run time: 76 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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