Friday, October 10, 2008

"City of Ember"

The post-apocalyptic childrens film “City of Ember” is not quite as good as “Monster House,” but you can very much tell it’s made by the same guy. That guy (or rather, boy), Gil Kenan, has a knack for ensnaring young audiences without pandering or assuming things will be too scary or convoluted for them. He’s also adept at creating fascinating, visually impressive environments for his occasionally superfluous characters to play around in. In this, his second film, based on an apparently popular young adult novel, the world has been decimated hundreds of years ago, and all the survivors live in the subterranean city of Ember (think “12 Monkeys” meets “The Goonies”), ruled by despotic Mayor Cole (Bill Murray, who I wish showed more energy here). The two kids who drive our film’s story, and dare to defy the mayor and save their city, are played by Saoirse Ronan, making a post-“Atonement” cashgrab, and Harry Treadaway, the dreamiest 24-year-old-playing-a-12-year-old heartthrob you’ll see all year. For a movie targeting the young adult set, there’s an unusual level of intensity and complications on display – it just occurred to me I’m not able to recount a detailed plot synopsis – but it’s always a lot of fun, and a kick to look at (David Letterman recommends it as “beautiful and strange in a very pleasing way”). Due to being surprisingly undermarketed, it might not get discovered until DVD, but Kenan jampacks the movie with such creativity and energy (a seemingly built-for-a-log-floom-ride set-piece closes out the film with a bang and will have many kids cheering), I’ll be eagerly awaiting his next.


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