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Warner Bros. Pictures

Legend of the Guardians

Movies

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

World War II has become the very definition of a just war-the sort of war that must be fought to restrain evil-and the stories of that struggle have trickled down into children's stories. The new 3D animated feature Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole retells the story of the Second World War and a desperate stand against evil.

Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) and Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) live with their baby sister and parents in a safe tree, hearing with different degrees of belief the noble legends of the Ga'Hoole owls. Their fledgling-hood is short-lived, however. Kidnapped by the owls of St. Aggie's, they are forced to serve the evil Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton). Metal Beak plans a conquest of the owl world in order to enslave other species of owls into service of the "pure ones." Soren escapes St. Aggie's, along with a tiny owl named Glyfie (Emily Barclay). Together, they must find the legendary guardians and convince them to put an end to Metal Beak's plans.

Based on the popular book series by Kathryn Lasky, the movie richly lays out the different philosophies by which the owls live. Metal Beak believes the strong will rule and the weak will perish, while the guardians believe the strong must protect the weak. The peace-loving guardians are slow to commit to battle, but when they must, they fight with courage and honor.

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Director Zack Snyder brings the same style to this kids' movie that he brought to the Greek battle epic 300. At crucial moments, he slows the action down so you can see the ruffle of wind across a feather and the spark of a talon hitting rock. The result is beautiful animation, made even richer by 3D. Rated PG for some sequences of scary action, this film is appropriate for all but the youngest children. It avoids the off-color humor that often sneaks into kids' movies. Indeed, this is one of those rare children's films that offers a noble tale, well told.

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