Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 131 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 12+. The film is rated PG-13 for being about the Holocaust and including the necessary upsetting themes about World War II, including hate-speech against Jews, the discussion and depiction of violence against them, and similar emotional content (also, a very weird depiction of a young German child in blackface). However, because the story doesn’t include many specific war scenes and is a bit dialogue-heavy, young children may not be able to follow it; at a recent press screening, the under-10 crowd behind me was utterly lost. The film’s conclusion also includes many upsetting character deaths.
‘The Book Thief’ tries to make the Holocaust a teachable moment for young audiences, but the film is unsuccessful tonally. In severely streamlining the original story by Markus Zusak, the film shoots itself in the foot.
By Roxana Hadadi
For as many important, iconic films we have about the Holocaust—running the gamut from “Schindler’s List” to “Life is Beautiful” to even “Inglourious Basterds”—I can’t think of any specifically geared toward children. Director Brian Percival tries to fill that gap with his adaptation of Markus Zusak’s historical fiction novel “The Book Thief,” but in trying to make the story child-friendly, he severely limits its impact. The film meanders for nearly two hours, never going to the dark places the story requires, and relies too much on a gimmick originally employed by Zusak to better effect.