The Legend of the Guardians shows owls are terrifying

Do you hate your child and never want it to sleep or enjoy nature? Then run out and show it The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole , a photorealistic, 3D, animated film with a kiddie-flick plot and truckloads of bird murder. If your offspring is able to endure the initial terror caused by seeing what appear to be real owls actually frickin’ talking, they should be mentally scarred by the time the villain channeling Hitler begins his wave of mutilation. Seriously though, what do you do with a gorgeous cartoon action movie too plot-stupid for grown-ups and too mind-scarring for tots?

Sporting characters with names that sound like stomach noises clearly created when novelist Kathryn Lasky fell asleep on her keyboard, TLOTG ’s primary bird is Soren (Jim Sturgess). Soren is a dreamer obsessed with mythology regarding heroic owls who fought naughty owls in an epic owl fight. His brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), is mad because Soren gets all the attention and doesn’t have a name that sounds like a piece of dirt. When the brothers fall out of their tree—yes, this is really the catalyst for the plot—they are kidnapped.

Turns out the evil Metal Beak (Joel Edgerton) and his queen Nyra (Helen Mirren) are running a Temple of Doom–style mining operation using young owlets from “lesser races.” Together with Gylfie (Emily Barclay), Soren escapes and stumbles into the company of the doltish Digger (David Wenham), the “warrior poet” Twilight (Anthony LaPaglia) and Mrs. Plithiver (Miram Margolyes), who is a snake and was Soren’s nanny…yes, you read that right. The gang embarks on a journey to find the guardians and stop the owl genocide of Metal Beak and his “pure ones,” leading to the most epic brawl of beak and talon since Foghorn Leghorn called the Road Runner out.

Director Zack Snyder, yes that Zack Snyder, delivers impossibly awesome visuals; an owl fight has never looked cooler. Yet John Orloff and Emil Stern’s script is like a bloated belly: stuffed but empty. Filled with cliché after cliché about following one’s heart, sorry, one’s “gizzard,” the pretty paint-by-numbers adventure would fool a young audience…if only the rest of the film were suited for them. The Legend of the Guardians is between worlds: visually arresting, strikingly simplistic and destined to be forgotten. You can’t really say it missed its target, only that it never had one to begin with.

Grade – C+

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