While searching for her missing father, young Mia discovers a group of shape-shifting forest spirits called the Migoo who help her save both him and the ancient Tree of Life they've been so valiantly protecting.
Created from half a million hand-painted frames of animation, the painstaking care put into every visual is apparent in every single scene. The movie is stunning to look at but the plot unfortunately doesn't live up to the same level of storytelling. Although the messages about taking care of the environment and celebrating the parent-child relationship are certainly good ones, young kids will be bored and confused, and tweens will resent the preachiness. The movie should be taken as a cautionary tale not just by viewers but by filmmakers as well.
This movie is intended for older children.
The story will go right over the heads of most preschoolers, who will find the actions of a greedy businesman very disturbing, especially when he tells his employees to forget about a worker buried under the rubble. They'll also be horrified when a man pops another one's dislocated bone back in. Five-year-olds will be intrigued by the Migoo, who look like McDonald's Happy Meal characters and who can transform themselves however they see fit.
Kids will find food for thought in the ideas that a hotel is being built in a tropical paradise at the expense of nature, and that, according to a researcher studying weather changes in Antarctica, "half of the ice flow has melted already." They'll be awestruck when a meteor lands in a young boy's hotel room, and they'll find it empowering that Mia sets off through the cursed father to find her father, stating, "I'm not afraid of anything."
Some tweens may relate to young Aldrin, who screams at his workaholic father, "You never pay any attention to me," and will be interested to see how their relationship plays out. They may also be reassured when a mysterious witch tells Mia, "Some deserve to find what they're looking for in this world. You're one of them. Your faith is strong."