Every once in a while a movie sequel is better than the original. This is the case for Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games trilogy based on the books by Suzanne Collins.
The heroine of the story, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) struggles to readjust to normal life after triumphing in the 74th annual Hunger Games a year prior. So as not to incite rebellion, Katniss must pretend she is grateful for her rich, new lifestyle. Though revolutionary thoughts seethe within her, Katniss must also keep up the ruse she’s in love with her co-victor, Peeta, even though her feelings for childhood friend Gale are just as strong. When the government grows suspicious, they decide the upcoming 75th Hunger Games will have a new twist…24 past winners of the games will be pitted against each other “as a reminder even the strongest can’t overcome the power of the Capitol,” thereby throwing Katniss and Peeta back into treacherous terrain.
The first half of the film is a slow build-up to the action, focused more on the psychology behind everyone’s feelings. While the first film had more action from the start, Catching Fire is truer to the book. If parents of tweens were uncertain if they should allow their kids to read The Hunger Games’ books, the first movie made it clear they should not. The violence in the first Hunger Games movie should’ve earned it an R rating. It’s dark, morose and the brutality of many of the teens is reminiscent of the kid killers in Children of the Corn, numb to pain and suffering, thrilled to kill. In the book, some children are like this, but certainly not to the level of viciousness portrayed in the movie.
In contrast, the bulk of enemies in Catching Fire are not other people but floods, poisonous gas, wild animals, etc. Because of this, it was not as violent as The Hunger Games. There are still some scary parts for children under 13- electrocutions, shooting, fights, but Catching Fire truly earns its PG-13 rating, no more.
Kid Focused Grades for Catching Fire: B (not for children under 13)
Compelling story line- A
Themes surrounding different types of government can be discussed. What would it be like to live in a totalitarian society? How does this film show the fear technology can be too invasive? Discuss irony in Catching Fire.
Strong message: A
Stay true to your self and others; loyalty is vital; never give up, etc.
Leading character is a role model: A
Katniss may not be perfect, but she’s loyal to others and puts others’ needs before her own.
Sexual or adult content: C
One character strips down and we see her naked back. She says something to Peeta along the lines of, “Do you know everyone wants to sleep with you?” Katniss also passionately kisses both Gale and Peeta several times each. There are a few times drinking is brought up. Once Peeta is offered a drink at a party that “will make him sick so he can eat some more.”
Language and Violence: D
The “s” word is used and once the “f” word is bleeped out during a television show segment. There are inferred deaths, floggings, fights and outside elements are often the enemy, wreaking havoc on others. Unlike R-rated movies, much of the violence is inferred instead of directly seen. Still, for young children, this violence could be upsetting.
Suited for the whole family: C
Not for children under 13.
Overall Kid Focused Grade for Catching Fire: B
Running Time: 2 hours 26 minutes
Last night I took my pot pie recipe and miniaturized it, thinking the kids would get a kick out of having their own little pies…I was right! This would also be good with leftover turkey.
Mini chicken pot pies
Ahead of time:
Cook 1/2- 1 pound of chicken. You can boil it or this time I popped it in the crockpot on low for a few hours that morning and then cubed it.
If you don't have time to make your own pie crust, let store bought pie dough thaw to room temperature (FYI...2 Marie Calendar shells made 12 cupcake sized pies).
Make a roux in a saucepan- Melt 1 tablespoon butter and mix with 1/4 cup flour.
Add a little bit of milk until you get a gluey consistency.
Add chicken stock or my quick and easy favorite- chicken bouillon and water (1 tablespoon per cup of water)
Rinse frozen veggies until thawed. Add to saucepan.
Add cooked chicken.
Spray muffin pan and line with pie crust. Scoop filling into each shell. Top with more crust and cinch edges.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Reggie (Owen Wilson) doesn’t fit in with the other turkeys. Though ignorance to their fate may keep them in a state of bliss, Reggie knows just what will happen to all of them come Thanksgiving. If only they’ listen!
When the President’s daughter chooses Reggie to be pardoned, and takes him in as a pet, he realizes not being part of a flock isn’t so bad after all. Yet just as Reggie settles into his new, comfortable life he gets roped into time traveling back to the first Thanksgiving to alter history. What if turkeys were never a Thanksgiving menu staple from the start?
The film is harmless, but wacky. There are spaceships, time machines, dance brawls, a waddle puffing contest, and a President who sounds a lot like Bill Clinton. Free Birds reminds me of a Will Ferris movie for kids. The plot is loopy and far-fetched, but there’s a silly cuteness about it. There aren’t many themes, but one that’s said outright: If we don’t do things, we become dumb.
My kids laughed a few times, but when I told my 9 and 11-year-old boys afterward that I’d describe it as “wacky,” my 9-year-old said he’d describe it as “dumb.” Guess he didn’t like it as much as I thought.
Don’t rush out to see Free Birds, though if you’re ever going to see it, it’s sort of fun to see in preparation for Thanksgiving. Save your money and wait for it to come out on video for kids under 6.
Compelling story line: D (A lot is squeezed in- it gets confusing to follow and the plot is weak.)
Strong message: C
Leading character is a role model: C (Reggie is a silly, harmless turkey who tries to be brave. His character is the best part of the movie.)
Sexual or adult content: A- (Reggie flirts with his love interest Jenny, played by Amy Poehler. In a scene it is inferred a turkey dies in a fire- the only serious part of the film.)
Language and Violence: B (Words like stupid and idiot are said frequently. There are some slapstick fighting scenes too.)
Suited for the whole family: B-
Overall Kid Focused Grade for Free Birds: C
Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes
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