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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that one scene in this fantasy movie stands out as too much for younger kids: Hundreds and hundreds of snakes attack people in a church, pursuing the teen hero to a crypt littered with skeletons (one of which briefly comes to life). Black birds gather in droves and attack, and Will is constantly pursued by a dark force, most often in the form of a masked man on horseback. The forces also threaten Will's whole family; at one point, giant icicles rain down on them. Will witnesses some violent events in his time travels, including the pillaging of a medieval village and the start of a cockfight in a tavern. In anger and frustration, he sets off a fiery explosion. Adults drink a little ale and wine.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Will (Alexander Ludwig) is an average kid celebrating his 14th birthday as Christmas vacation starts. On his birthday, he notices some strange changes: Dogs growl at him, blackbirds gather in his presence, and TVs are all static when he's around. When Will's family attends a holiday party at Miss Greythorne's mansion, finally some of the strange goings-on start to make sense. Miss Greythorne (Frances Conroy), her "butler" Merriman (Ian McShane), and a few other locals are Old Ones -- time travelers/warriors who serve the Light and banish the Dark. Will learns he's an Old One, too and has a job to do: Find six signs before the forces of the dark take over the world. The signs are hidden in some ingenious places and spaces in time, and it's a nice vacation from the rest of the movie to travel there, because back in the present you're bogged down by Will's troubled love life and a family secret about his father.
Is it any good?
Kids pining for a new Harry Potter-style fantasy film epic will have to keep the vigil going. Will Stanton, seventh son of a seventh son, seeker of the signs that will save all from darkness, makes a fine hero in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising book series, but the movie adaptation is lousy. Even though a few CGI moments are great fantasy fun, the story is so muddled -- and so unnecessarily altered from the source material -- that it may make you side with the dark forces just this once. Will's growing relationship with the Old Ones and his realization that he's special and has a calling just isn't developed well. The movie's ending is strange and implausible, even for fantasy, and brings up all sorts of questions that future books in Cooper's series won't answer -- because they were not in the book to begin with.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the themes in this movie that they've seen in other fantasy movies and books -- like dark riders, forces of light and dark, the gathering of signs, time travel, and reluctant heroes. Which specific books or movies does this one remind you of? Why? If kids have read the book, they can talk about the differences in this telling (expect them to be talking for a long time...).
- In theaters: October 4, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2008
- Cast: Alexander Ludwig, Christopher Eccleston, Ian McShane
- Director: David L. Cunningham
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: fantasy action and some scary images.
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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.