I had some trouble getting into it at first e because of the oddness of owl bodies and faces. The feathers over their noses made me feel like reaching over to the TV and brushing them off. And I wasn't all that impressed with the songs, except for the Celtic howly sounding bits where the owls are flying into hurricanes. I couldn't help liking those; you can't go wrong with eerie Celtic vocalizations, especially along with wings and gusty skies and churning seas below.
But I did like the message. Dreams make you strong. Your job is to restore broken things and help the weak become strong. ....as opposed to the "bad-guy" message that the strong should rule the weak, broken things should be thrown away, and dreams sap your strength. Two different yardsticks for success, nicely contrasted.
I know that "dare to dream" message is cliched and can be mawkish (and the "listen to your gizzard", though innovatively expressed, is an old Hollywood one too --- "use the force, Luke.... follow your hearrrttt!" )
Cliched doesn't always mean wrong though, and I liked this movie's focus on the truth of the legendary and the realism in believing in that truth and trying to work towards it. The "dreams" in the movie weren't about making yourself into some sort of superstar center of the universe. Rather, the young owl protagonist has grown up listening to his father's tales of courage and heroism, and his belief in these supposed legends enables him to find them in real form and ultimately help save what he loves from the evil ones, who are capturing baby owlets and brainwashing them into servants of power.
I thought the point held true that without a "dream" -- or perhaps a vision that goes beyond plain everyday present facts -- you can't restore the broken or help the weak become strong or resist enslavement, because you couldn't even imagine something different from what is at that moment. That's an interesting thought, isn't it? The present situation can become a grim trap, like the weird electrical contrivance that trapped and drained the energy of the owls, if you can't somehow look past it to something better.
In this way, telling heroic stories and listening to them seriously and believing their message is an act of faith and hope. It is what education is about --- passing on the heritage (of owls in this case) and thereby showing that what an owl could be in past days, so another owl could be again. And that legends are sometimes truer than everyday "facts". So I was glad Paddy was so into the movie -- the message might not have been amazingly complex, but it was one I want him to internalize as he grows up.
The true, the good and the beautiful.have much greater reality than do the false, the evil, and the ugly, which latter are too often idolized in the larger world. So I urge you to bring reality to that world - to take whatever you have grasped here of the true, good, and beautiful out into that larger world, so much in need of what is real rather than what is illusory." -- Thomas Dillon
There are plenty of intense battle scenes in this movie but surprisingly ungraphic considering that there are slashing steely claws involved. Common Sense Media recommends for 8 and up, which is about the same as my comfort level -- Paddy had a hard time coming down after the adrenaline high, but didn't seem disturbed.
My teenagers have read the series. They say that this movie is the first 3 books compressed and that the books are a bit more intense than the movie because the slashing-claw bits aren't as sanitized. Kieron thinks it would be too much for Paddy, but other kids' mileage might vary.