"Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" is just as suited to fans of Harry Potter as it is to older children who will want to enjoy this fantasy adventure.

It's a beautiful film, with or without 3-D. Gorgeous animation and appealing characters join the ranks of other "quest" movies in which an individual must face his darkest fears during a perilous journey. (Yes, I'm talking "Pinocchio," "Star Wars" and "The Wizard of Oz" here. You get the picture.)

The star of the show is a young owlet named Soren (voiced by Jim Sturgess) who is dazzled by the tales his father tells of the battles and victories won by the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a band of warriors who defended all owls from the misdeeds of the wicked Pure Ones.

Soren's older brother Kludd (Ryan Kwanten) scoffs at all the legends and grows weary of hearing the tales that enchant not only Soren but also the youngest of the brood. (Their parents worry that too much storytelling could create "daymares.") Still, Soren longs to become a warrior like the ones his father talks about.

At one point, Kludd and Soren fall out of their tree home and end up flopping about on the ground, which is a dangerous environment for birds that have not yet mastered the art of flying. The two are plucked from the earth by a couple of rough-looking owls and taken far away to a land ruled by the Pure Ones.

The queen of all the owls is the icy Nyra (Helen Mirren), who instantly knows Kludd will gladly join her minions with the right praise and ego-stroking. She has other uses for Soren and dozens more kidnapped owlets, however.

Soren knows he must escape to find the Guardians and tell them what is happening to the owlets. But he also knows that he must able to fly in order to escape - not just fly, in fact, but soar over the ocean in a very long journey to the Great Tree, where the legendary Guardians supposedly dwell.

This is a film about courage and belief. And even though it is rated PG, some of its battles and situations are pretty intense and may not be suited to the youngest of viewers.

Any fan of animation will want to see this show. It stop-motion sequences and beautifully drawn characters are as pleasing to the eye as the script is to the heart.


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