Dave's Rating:

4.0

It keeps moving and stays exciting …

Who's in It: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn, Sarah Bolger, Joan Plowright and the voices of Nick Nolte, Martin Short, Seth Rogen

The Basics: A fractured family with a single, stressed-out mom, a surly daughter and two twin sons — one nerdishly studious, the other combative and prone to getting into trouble — move into an old family estate only to discover that magical creatures live in and around the house.

What's the Deal? Like all movies in the lonely-troubled-kid-meets-magical-creatures genre (E.T., The Neverending Story, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Golden Compass, Bridge to Terabithia, Mac and Me), this one is more about the internal journey of the boy than about pure fantasy (OK, Mac and Me was about selling Happy Meals, but its bizarre corporate agenda was entirely its own), but the good news is that it doesn't get bogged down in sentimentality or trite lessons. It keeps moving and stays exciting and is even, at times, kind of scary.

What's Annoying: The celebrity-voiced creatures, with the exception of the perfectly cast Nolte (who is the aural equivalent of his freaked-out DUI mug shot from a while back), sort of take things in an uncomfortably cute Lion King direction for my taste. Kids might like it though. Dunno how many of them saw Knocked Up, though, you know?

Appropriate for: Ages 7 and up. Maybe younger if you're the kind of useless parent who already lets them watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on cable.

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