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Movie Review: The City of Ember (Monday, October 20, 2008)

Title: The City of Ember
Rating: PG
Release Date: October 10, 2008
When seen: October 18, 2008
Venue: Regal Cinemas
Manassas, VA
Review: 1.5 Lightbulbs / 4

When I first saw the previews for this film, it looked both dark and original, so of course, I immediately went to the library, and read Jeanne DuPrau's novel on which the film is based. The book was terrific, but aimed at a younger audience than I'd expected. The film loosely follows the book, with only a few major changes. The book starred two rather clever twelve-year-olds, while the characters in the movie seemed a few years older. But considering that the story occurs right at their "coming of age", moving that up a few years makes it easier for the audience to relate (we don't generally see a twelve-year-old as an adult, and that would be difficult to act). Despite being a few years older, I think that the personalities of the characters were captured fairly well, particularly Lena, who loves to run! I was disappointed by the addition of a parent conspiracy plot. The book, while simple, was complex enough without that. I think the main duo appear much stronger when they do everything on their own, rather than having to follow in the footsteps of some adults. Again, I imagine the producers just couldn't bear to give adult responsibilities and ideas to these young heroes. Bill Murray is great as the mayor, and by and large the acting throughout is very good. As usual, the places where the movie has trouble are the places where they deviated from the book. Some of the changes defy comprehension, like the mutant mole, and an ending that stretches plausibility. I imagine that the changes were made in an effort to appeal to an older audience than in the book, but I think that could have been done through strong directing and strong acting, both of which were apparent, without the need for "creative" writing. It's that creative writing that is causing a great storybook to fizzle at the box office, when it should be thriving from audiences young an old who have some imagination, and just a bit of curiosity. Skip the movie. Read the book.

—Brian (10/20/2008 1:15 PM)
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