Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:PG
Violence/Scariness:Predator and other animal violence including armed battles, characters killed, themes of abuse and betrayal
Diversity Issues:A metaphoric theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:September 24, 2010
DVD Release Date:March 12, 2011
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: PG
Profanity: None
Nudity/Sex: None
Alcohol/Drugs: None
Violence/Scariness: Predator and other animal violence including armed battles, characters killed, themes of abuse and betrayal
Diversity Issues: A metaphoric theme of the movie
Movie Release Date: September 24, 2010
DVD Release Date: March 12, 2011

Zack Snyder tries to do for feathers what he did for abs and biceps in “300” in this 3D animated adventure based on three books from the 15-book series of Ga’hoole novels by Kathryn Lansky. Every snowflake, feather, and talon is vivid, arresting, and (apparently) literally in your face, but the story is not as clear. the striking visuals do not make up for a muddled story with too many characters and a plot that seems to be pulled together from the usual Joseph Campbell/George Lucas/J.R.R. Tolkien box of plots and characters.
Two owl brothers, Soren (a likable Jim Sturgess) and Kludd, not quite ready to fly, fall out of the nest and are captured and flown to the headquarters of Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his wife (acidly voiced by Helen Mirren), where kidnapped owlets are assigned to be soldiers or drones. Look at those names again — any question about which one is going to have the heart, I mean force, I mean gizzard to lead the rebel forces and which one is going to buy into the whole “we’re the pure and the strong so we get to oppress everyone else” side of things?
Wait, you say — but where are the colorful sidekicks? Right over here, where we have a lute-playing warrior-poet and a snake nanny and a future-predicting echidna (an egg-laying spiked mammal that looks sort of like a porcupine) and more. Well, then, you add, there must also be a wise mentor. Step this way, and meet Ezylryb (voiced with asperity by Geoffrey Rush). There are storms and battles and betrayals and a secret weapon made from blue flecks pecked out by owls turned “moon-blinked” (think zombie) from coughed up owl pellets (undigested bits of mouse, we are helpfully told).
Those not familiar with the book will find it hard to follow, especially because of the strong accents of many of the Aussie voice actors. Those who are looking for what they enjoyed in the books may miss the narrator’s voice. There is some impressive sound and fury, but it does not signify much. “Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real,” says the father owl. But, as this and too many other movies show, just because you do see something, even in sharpest 3D, doesn’t mean it is.


Parents should know that the movie has some intense peril and graphic battles with bloody injuries and characters injured and killed, a frank discussion of the consequences of war, betrayal by family, and characters are turned into a kind of zombie.
Family discussion: What did Soren learn about the truth behind the stories he had been told? Why did Soren and his brother have different reactions to their circumstances?
If you like this, try: the series of books by and the Redwall series by Brian Jacques

  • Chee

    “Those who are may miss the narrator’s voice.” Typo? :)
    This movie was truly beautiful but I either rolled my eyes or LOLed every time an HD feather plucked from the harsh wings was shoved in my face. Everything visually received all the attention in the world and it really is pretty awe-inspiring, but I didn’t find the characters very engaging and so I fell asleep. Great review, Nell!

  • http://Agree grok

    Good review Nell. I saw this with my kids and they liked it. I was hoping for something magical like “How to train your dragon” but it fell well short of that. The final music during the credits was possibly the most emotionally affecting part of the movie for me!
    I wish there was more humor. And they could have played up the scenes in the Ga’hoole tree a bit more. Something like “how to train your owl?”

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, grok! Agreed on all points. “How to Train Your Dragon” is one of my favorite films of the year and this one doesn’t come close.

  • Nell Minow

    Not a typo, Chee, but a confusingly constructed sentence, so let me see what I can fix. And your comment is right on the money, as usual.

  • Wendy

    Your review made me smile, anyway.

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