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"The Book Thief" tells the heart-wrenching tale of wartime Germany (DVD review)

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The Book Thief

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The Book Thief (2013)

Starring: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson

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Set during World War II Germany and based on Markus Zusak's book of the same name, "The Book Thief" tells the story of Liesel Meminger (Nelisse), a young girl who is adopted by a set of German parents after her mother was forced to flee from her homeland. The death of Liesel's kid brother on the train ride to their new home has left the young girl all alone, forced to face her new world alone - and illiterate. She is taken in by Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Rush and Watson) and quietly learns to love her new family. Liesel takes a quick liking to Hans, her new, accordion-toting father figure, and he teaches her to read - a common interest that would draw them together in the midst of their dreary surroundings. Though Rosa, at first, comes off as a stern, cold matriarch, she eventually grows on the young girl, as well, as the family undertakes a dangerous secret: they begin to harbor a Jewish refugee in their basement.

The young Jewish man is named Max (Ben Schnetzer) and his family has been looked after by Hans for years - in fact, Hans' beloved accordion once belonged to Max's father. Max arrives at the Hubermann's home sick and seemingly on the verge of death. While the couple takes care of him, Liesel also begins to spend time with the young man, often reading to him to pass the time. However, when she grows tired of repeating H.G. Well's classic "The Invisible Man" over and over, she sets out to find some new stories.

This proves to be quite the task, as Nazi-driven book burnings are being held in the community to eliminate any "intellectual drift" and ensure faithfulness to Hitler. The clever girl begins to steal (or "borrow," in her words) books out of a neighbor's library to keep Max entertained. But with world war looming, everything is set into chaos as house inspections, bigotry, and an army draft throw the ironically named Heaven Street upside down. Despite the odds, the unorthodox family fights to stay together - and to stay alive.

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The Breakdown:

Amidst the gloom of Nazi Germany, young Liesel maintains a positive outlook on life through her adopted family bonds and the wonders of literature. Nelisse and Nico Liersch, who plays the adorable, blonde neighbor, Rudy, put on great performances, despite their young age. Their optimism may be the result of their obliviousness to politics, but, on the other hand, it may just be the incorruptibility of children shining through. The kids light up the screen with their honesty, curiosity, loyalty, and love for each other. Liesel's relationships with the other three stars (Hans, Rosa, and Max) are also heart-warming, and audiences will naturally be rooting for the little one to overcome the evil that surrounds her.

Then there's Geoffrey Rush. Is he not fantastic in every single role? His take on Hans is wonderful, as usual, and watching him welcome in his adopted daughter is a joy to watch.

The architecture, costuming, and thick accents of its actors make the movie feel truly authentic. The film appropriately captures and depicts the hope-deprived culture of 1940s Germany, which is contrasted heavily with the accompaniment of Hans' joyous accordion. The rest of the soundtrack is great, as well, resulting in an emotional ride from start to finish.

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The Verdict:

"The Book Thief" had an incredibly short-lived run at local movie theaters - to the extent that the Salt Lake City DVD Examiner didn't even know it was out until it hit the dollar theater - and many moviegoers might not have had the chance to catch it until it hit store shelves and Redboxes in the past few weeks. And that's really a shame because this is a great movie that is appropriate for practically all ages and well worth your time.

The one drawback to the movie is that, due to the very little amount of physical action in the film, its 131-minute running time starts to feel a little bit long. The show draws upon its viewers' emotions heavily, so it's not like it's a boring movie, but if you go into "The Book Thief" expecting it to resemble any sort of "heist" movie, even in the slightest, you're barking up the wrong tree. In fact, there is hardly any thievery to speak of at all. But the story that you do get is a great one that will leave an impression with you as the credits start to roll.

If you haven't seen "The Book Thief" yet, you should. It's on sale now and should be Redboxed, at the very least. You'll be glad that you picked it up.

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Similar movies: "The Monuments Men" (2014), "The King's Speech" (2010), "Dead Poets Society" (1989)

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DVD bonus features:

- Audio in: English, French, Spanish

- Subtitles in: English, Spanish

- No other features available on rental version.

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Directed by: Brian Percival

Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures

Running time: 131 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "some violence and intense depiction of thematic material," including World War II-related violence, crimes, and Nazi rituals; some historically accurate racist remarks and religious bigotry; with some schoolyard bullying and brief fisticuffs.

Costars Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer

DVD release date: March 11, 2014

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