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September 26, 2010
Review - " Legend of the Gardians: Owls of Ga'Hoole "  
(in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Direcetd by: Zach Snyder
Starring: Emily Barclay, Abbie Cornish, Adrienne DeFaria, Ryan
Kwanten, San Neil, Anthony LaPaglia, Helen Mirren, Miriam
Margolyes, Geoffrey Rush

From the outside, siblings Soren and Kludd don't appear to be all
that different. They're both young barn owls who are just getting
the hang of flying. On the inside, though, the two brothers couldn't
be more distinct.

Soren loves listening to his dad's stories of the great Guardians of
Ga'Hoole—noble owls who once beat back an evil band known as
the Pure Ones. For Soren, there's nothing better than to aspire to
the Guardians' lofty ideals.

Kludd, on the other hand, scoffs at that idea. No daydreaming on
silly stories of make-believe legends for him. He'll simply hone his
flying and hunting skills and grab the things of life that he wants —
including his father's favor.

It's that super-competitiveness, however, that causes Kludd and
Soren to end up tumbling out of their tree to the ground, which is
a dangerous place to be for owlets. In fact, for a moment it looks
like the only future the unlucky brothers will have is to be a wild
boar's late-night snack. But before they can even hoot in horror,
they're snatched up by none other than minions of the Pure Ones
and swept off to a secret lair.
While Kludd is selected to be a future soldier, his brother ends up in the slave labor corner of the camp. Things aren't
looking good for Soren. And it appears that owl genocide is being planned. There's only one hope left: Someone must
escape and pull together a small band of resisters. Someone must soar across the seemingly endless miles of sea to the
fabled tree of Ga'Hoole and warn the Guardians. Someone must believe it can be done. And Soren thinks he just might be
that someone.

This is an epic adventure of heroism and bravery. Soren and his cobbled-together family of misfit owls have to face
impossible odds to save the owl kingdom. Each one in the group selflessly puts his or her life on the line. The Guardians,
too, are willing to sacrifice and even go to war for the needs of their kin.

When the Pure Ones (who are barn owls themselves) move to separate out the "lesser owls" from their captured lot, Soren
steps forward to defend a tiny elf owl named Gylfie. As a consequence, he shares her fate and is sent to the slave labor
camp. There the two become fast friends.

An older guard in the Pure Ones' ranks, Grimble,
determines to help Soren and Gylfie. He goes
against his unjust orders and teaches the young
owls to fly in hopes that they might somehow help
the enslaved. Grimble ultimately gives his life to
help the young pair escape.

Though the story glides clear of anything bloody
or gory, young viewers will sit through lots of
scary and jarring moments. Intense situations
range from a snarling wild boar that leaps at the
camera, to manhandled owls forced into slave
labor, to a group of heroes almost killed in a
raging storm at sea, to armored warriors viciously
slashing at one another with metal talons.

When the projectors started rolling several
different things grabbed my attention in pretty
short order. The first was just how gorgeous this
animated film looks. Without question, the
strikingly photo-realistic owls and colorful
environments are a visual treat. The second thing, however, was how hard it is to keep track of, well, who's hoo.

Based on the first three books of the popular children's series by author Kathryn Lasky, this flick has a lot of story and a lot
of characters to cover. And to my ornithologically untrained eye, one owl looks pretty much like another. These birds don't
get easy cartoon names like Daffy or Woody, either. Instead, they're stuck with far less memorable monikers such as Kludd
and Ezylryb.

That's almost beside the point, though, since kids — this movie's primary target — seem to be able to keep track of
everything without even trying. And some of the things they'll be keeping track of while watching these birds is just how
brave and heroic Soren is. Epic tales of great heroism and bravery may start to feel a bit familiar to those of us over, um,
30, but they're brand-new for 10-year-olds. And they're often worth retelling and rehearing because of how they lift us up
and encourage us to make good choices in the face of difficult odds. They entertain while reminding us of where our hearts
should be.

Those lessons might translate to facing down a scary test at school or standing by a friend in need. And that alone is
something well worth hooting about.
The guardians of Ga'Hoole aren't just a legend
after all, which probably does not surprise you.
A scarred, gnarly old warrior owl named
Ezylryb (Geoffrey Rush) acts as Soren's
Obi-Wan, while a burrowing owl named Digger
(David Wenham) and a pompous older owl
named Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia) who plays
the lute serve as sidekicks.

"Owls of Ga'Hoole" is rooted in the basic
elements of lively storytelling - the hero's
journey, brother vs. brother, saving one's
people - and it turns out Snyder's trademark
slow-motion close-ups of grappling warriors in
mid-grapple are even cooler in
computer-animated 3D, even when the actors
are owls.

Audiences that fully appreciate a blisteringly
choreographed fight between birds are
probably older than the audiences that fully
appreciate cartoons about owls, but that's a
problem for the marketing department, not me.
While the story follows an all-too familiar track
(boy with big dreams finds a way to make them
come true), Legend of the Guardians: The
Owls of Ga'Hoole wins points for its stunning
animation and great action sequences. This
movie is a good time for both parents and kids