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Trick or Treaters
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Trick or Treaters (aka The Three Robbers) is a 2007 German animated feature based on a children's book. It's in German, with English subtitles, which could make this difficult viewing for kids learning how to read. Though it's an entertaining folktale origin story with gorgeous animation about how Halloween began, there are some moments of scary imagery -- a mean frog, an evil woman in charge of an orphanage, the three robbers themselves, mysterious animals in the forest -- that could be problematic for younger viewers or for kids prone to having nightmares. A little girl is shown in the cemetery, mourning the loss of her mother. The cruel woman who runs the orphanage also delights in being mean to the orphans in her charge, even spinning two boys in circles and forcing them to sing. Overall, this movie teaches lessons on kindness, compassion, and selflessness.
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What's the story?
Before Halloween was invented, there was a little girl named Tiffany who was about to leave for an orphanage immediately after her mother's funeral. Onn the way to the orphanage, her carriage is overtaken by three robbers. Tiffany decides she wants to stay with them instead of going to the bleak orphanage and so concocts an elaborate story about how her father is a wealthy man in India who, if they take care of her, will send them lots of gold. In the three days she stays with them, Tiffany gradually wins them over with her playfulness and creativity; she also teaches them how to read and write. Meanwhile, the kids in the orphanage are forced to eat mashed beets, while the wicked caretaker eats sweets and candy in a tower. As the police and the orphanage caretaker try to find Tiffany and bring her back to the orphanage, it's up to Tiffany and the orphans to discover the sweets and candy and thus rebel against the caretaker's tyranny, and the three robbers -- who were once orphans in the very same orphanage -- must lose their greed and selfishness so all children can discover the joys of play, candy, and having one night to stay up late every year.
Is it any good?
This is a charming German folktale based on a children's story about how Halloween came to be. The animation has a unique style similar to the spare black-and-white line drawings that accompanied Shel Silverstein's poetry books, and, coupled with the story itself, it brings to mind the works of Roald Dahl. Though there are some mild scares -- creepy forests, a frightening orphanage -- the movie does teach lessons about kindness, compassion, and the importance of trying to have some fun every once in a while. Though sad at first, the lead character continually makes the best of bad situations through her vivid imagination and creativity.
The biggest problem for younger viewers still learning how to read is that this movie is in German with English subtitles. Though the style of the animation alone might overcome this issue, it could be troublesome or frustrating for those trying to keep up with the words on the screen while watching the story unfold. Overall, though, this is a delightful Halloween tale based on a children's book.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about children's movies based on books. What would be the challenges in turning a book into a movie?
What do you think would be gained or lost if this movie had been overdubbed with English-speaking voices instead of subtitles?
Which parts of this story made it similar to other folktales? How was it different?
- On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2007
- Cast: Elena Kreil, Joachim Krol, Charly Hubner
- Director: Hayo Freitag
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Book Characters, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Holidays, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Run time: 74 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
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