Eglantine, voiced by Adrienne de Faria and Soren, voiced by Jim Sturgess in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Village Roadshow Pictures' family fantasy adventure "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture

The level of violence, warlike elements and complex themes in the beautiful, harrowing animated 3-D feature "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" make it a problematic choice for kids younger than 10.

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An adolescent owl named Soren falls from the family nest with his brother Kludd, and as they struggle to get airborne and flee a snarling wolf, they are kidnapped by owls from the feared Pure Ones - an authoritarian owl enclave that aims to dominate weaker owls and rule the owl world through brainwashing (called "moon blinking") and force. While Soren tries to fight the Pure Ones and avoid indoctrination, his brother Kludd buys into it and betrays him. Soren escapes and flies over the sea to find the great Guardian owls about whom his father told mythic bedtime stories. Once with the Guardians, Soren becomes a warrior and helps to fight the Pure Ones.

Based on the books by Kathryn Lasky, this story of turmoil and war clearly harks back to the rise of fascism and communism in the 20th century. There is a sword-and-sorcery element to the film that echoes "The Lord of the Rings" books and movies (all PG-13s), the "Harry Potter" books and films (some PGs, some PG-13s) and "The Lion King" (G, 1994), too.

The bottom line: Even without recognizing the historical references, kids will find the evil owls, the Pure Ones, frightening. And the battles between owl civilizations show the feathered creatures in armor, and taking part in veritable aerial dogfights, a la World War II. Also, the themes about brothers torn asunder by ideology, or infants being kidnapped and separated from one's parents, are strong and poignant.


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