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 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is filled with enough scary moments to make this for sturdy older kids only. Little girls contend with an evil governess and end up bait for wolves, knives, and are locked in a closet. One character meets a gruesome death between the rollers of a giant industrial washing machine while another is mauled by wolves and then dies in a fire.
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What's the story?
Young Bonnie Willoughby (Emily Hudson) is excited that her cousin, the orphan Sylvia, is coming to stay in her country mansion surrounded by nothing but woods and wolves. But when the front door opens, she comes face-to-face with the evil Miss Slighcarp (Stephanie Beacham), hired by her parents to take care of Bonnie and Sylvia while the rest of the family spends time in warmer climates recovering from illness. Instead of taking care of them, Slighcarp schemes to steal the family fortune, sink the ship Lord and Lady Willoughby are sailing on, fire all the servants, and send the children to an orphan work camp. It is up to the girls to stop Slighcarp and her accomplice, the drunken Mr. Grimshaw (Mel Smith).
Is it any good?
THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE has enough disturbing gothic imagery to provide younger children with plenty of material for nightmares. A pack of wolves runs around the countryside trying to maul every human they see, and there are bleak and brutal scenes of an orphan work house straight out of darkest Dickens, to say nothing of rats, intense chase scenes, and cartoonishly evil bad ladies and men. Which isn't to say that this is a bad movie, but it does go out of its way to exaggerate the suspense and general air of bleakness hanging over 19th century England.
Overall, the acting is very good, especially compared to most children's movies. Stephanie Beacham gives the odious Miss Slighcarp the over-the-top performance the character requires, and Mel Smith is comically bumbling as her foolish sidekick Grimshaw. Once the action gets going, the adventures and misadventures draw you in, and even as you're not exactly sure why there are so many wolves running around the lavish estate, the wolves do at least ratchet up the tension.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how books are turned into movies. What do you think some of the challenges are in turning a book into a movie? How does this movie compare with other films you've seen based on books?
How accurately do you think the film represents the plight of orphans in 19th century England?
While there is an obvious literal meaning to "wolves" in the film's title, who and what are the symbolic "wolves" in the film?
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