AWFJ Women On Film – “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” – Review by Susan Granger

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While the snowy white owl beckons families to this 3-D animated adventure, it’s far more dark and violent than you might imagine – and it may terrify the very young.

The story follows Soren (Jim Sturgess), a young owl entranced by his father’s tales of the mythic Guardians of Ga’Hool, noble warriors who protect owls from the evil Pure Ones. But his jealous older brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), is only interested in learning to fly and hunt, causing them to fall from their treetop hollow and into the talons of the Pure Ones. Deposited into an orphanage run by helmeted Metal Beak (Sam Neill) and Nyra (Helen Mirren), the enslaved outlets are “moon-blinked” to lose all sense of self and will. Soren resists and is forced to pick apart pellets for mysterious magnetic particles called “flecks” – until he manages to escape with Gylfie (Emily Barclay), a barn owl. En route to seek help in the Great Ga’Hoole Tree, they join up with Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia), a singing grey owl; Digger (David Wenham), who tells owl jokes; and Mrs. Plithiver (Miriam Margolyes), Soren’s nursemaid snake. At the Great Tree, they meet Ezlryb (Geoffrey Rush), an old screech owl who becomes Soren’s mentor. In the meantime, Soren’s little sister Eglantine (Emilie de Ravin) is kidnapped and held hostage as the predatory Pure Ones prepare for battle against the unsuspecting Guardians.

Working from a screenplay by Emil Stern and John Orloff, based on Kathryn Lasky’s children’s books, Zack Snyder – known for his penchant for carnage in “Watchmen” and “300” – makes his animation directing debut. Peppered with British names and Australian allusions unfamiliar to Americans, the good-vanquishes-evil plot is incredibly confusing and the excessive violence seems quite inappropriate for a family audience.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” is a savage, scary 6. Give credit for the awesome animation to Animal Logic (“Happy Feet”), and 3-D adds more than just another dimension, immersing the audience in the fantasy world.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.