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 movie, based on the book by Cornelia Funke, focuses on two orphaned brothers who run away to Venice to escape the reach of a horrible aunt. They are taken in by the Thief Lord, the teenage leader of a band of runaways whose criminal activities support the gang. Some scuffles pit adults against kids.
What's the story?
Determined not to be separated after their mother's death leaves them orphaned, brothers Prosper (Aaron Johnson) and Bo (Jasper Harris) run away to Venice where they are taken in by a teen who calls himself the Thief Lord (Rollo Weeks). This shadowy character serves as a sort-of father figure to a band of homeless children, apparently supporting the makeshift family through his criminal endeavors. The two brothers are welcomed into the gang, despite Prosper's reservations about turning to a life of crime. His concerns are soon tested when the Thief Lord is hired to pull off his biggest job ever, and may require the combined skills of everyone in the group.
Is it any good?
The strong brotherly bond between the teenage Prosper and his much younger brother forms the core of this enchanting film, and the story takes pains to examine the meaning of family. As Prosper spends more time with the Thief Lord, he uncovers a huge secret about his new friend's background. Add to the mix the boys' horrid aunt Esther, who has adopted the adorable Bo but finds his brother too much trouble and has consigned him to an orphanage, and it's clear that in this story, families are defined by affection and concern rather than blood.
This is a tough message for children to absorb, but the film pulls it off gracefully by introducing a hint of magic. While the older kids are absorbed in planning the heist, Bo gradually discovers that the object they are seeking may have mystical properties that, initially, only he can discern. Once the rest of the group learns the truth, Prosper and the Thief Lord must make a difficult decision that could change, forever, their relationship to the rest of their improvised family. It's difficult to see these kids forced to make such an adult decision, but it makes for a powerful, and deeply moving, movie that will resonate with both children and adults.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family connections. How do you define "family"? Do you need to be related by blood? Do all blood-relatives look our for you? Also, orphanages are a common element in many classic movies and books about unhappy childhoods. Can you name some? Do any of these books or movies romanticize the experience? If so, how?
- In theaters: January 5, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: March 14, 2006
- Cast: Jasper Harris, Rollo Weeks, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
- Director: Richard Claus
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and thematic elements.
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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