Matthew Lickona 1 p.m., March 7
The Book Thief
Filmed version of the popular Young Adult novel about a pretty blonde orphan girl (a cherubic Sophie Nelisse) who gets taken in by poor, decent German folk just as World War II gets underway. Papa (a hunched Geoffrey Rush) hides a Jew in the basement because the Jew's father once saved his life; Mama (a haggard Emily Watson) scowls but does what's right. There's a lesson here somewhere about the importance of words and stories, but it's overshadowed by the shadow of death. Or rather, the smooth, snarky, British-accented voice of Death, who drops in to inform us that "Of course, no one could serve the Fuhrer as loyally as I," among other grammar-school profundities. In a YA novel, Death may have sounded like a sophisticated narrator. Here, he mostly ruins otherwise serviceable scenes by telling us what we're already seeing, and gives the lie to a story about survival and endurance. 2013.
— Matthew Lickona