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City of Ember 

Does this movie reach its full imaginative potential?

The lure of intelligent and exciting kids' fantasy isn't met in City of Ember. The latest from Walden Media, who specialize in adaptations of children's books, misses the experience of growing up that elevates their best movies (Because of Winn Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia, the first hour of the first Narnia.) Based on Jeanne Duprau's novel, the premise is full of possibilities. A township living underground is at stake when its power source is dying. Two teenagers who have secretly traded assigned jobs---the girl Lina is a messenger, and the boy Doon maintains the city's pipelines---want to discover what's really going on, even if it means stepping into the feared outer world. The draw of youth fantasies from Return to Oz to Labyrinth is that they empower kids, dare to be scary and reject unconditional respect for one's elders. Authority in City of Ember doesn't feel dangerous. Despite Bill Murray's colourful turn as the corrupt mayor, Ember lacks an oppressive threat. The movie only respects young viewers to the limit of a blandly told good story---never indulging its imaginative potential.

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Vol 26, No 42
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