The Hunger Games: Not just for kids

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It was a NYT best seller.  It has been on school reading lists for years.  But for many of us, “The Hunger Games” and its accompanying fervor have seemed to come out of nowhere.  The question you might want answered the most is: Is this just for kids?  The answer is a decided ‘no’.  Like all good fiction, “The Hunger Games” isn’t so much about the brutal, gladiator/survivor type death match but about the bigger questions in life: love, family, compassion, commitment and ultimately what values are worth dying for.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America.  Civil strife, war and famine have resulted in a country called Panem, which is divided into the land of the haves in the Capitol and the have-nots in 12 districts.  Once a year, a lottery is held in all the districts with one male and one female teen chosen to represent their district in “The Hunger Games”.  The games come with all the hoopla of our own Olympics, all the way to being broadcast live.  The pampered peeps of the Capitol live it up while enjoying and betting on the bloodshed, yet all citizens are forced to watch.  It is reality TV at its most barbaric level but still might be a notch more civilized than any “Real Housewives…” of whatever!

“The Hunger Games” takes place during the 74th annual games.  16 year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) steps up to take her 12 year old sister’s place when Prim has the world’s worst luck to be chosen on her very first time in the lottery.  Such bravery and loyalty is an anomaly and it isn’t long before all of Panem is intrigued by this new contestant.

The movie has been produced on a shoe string budget but manages to look better than it should.  I found the art direction to be oddly reminiscent of sci-fi movies from the 70’s.  It was fun but nothing revolutionary and downright quaint.  Quite a few big names appear in supporting roles along with the kids you’ve never heard of.  Woody Harrelson stars as Haymitch Abernathy, a former winner turned alcoholic consultant.  Chameleon Stanley Tucci is perfectly smarmy as the effervescent TV Host, Caesar Flickerman.  And one of my all time faves, Donald Sutherland is wonderful as the shifty President Snow.

When it comes to the kids you’ve never heard of, they are of course all adults with acting pedigrees.  Jennifer Lawrence nabbed the highly coveted role of Katniss after wowing audiences and critics alike with her Oscar nominated role in 2010’s Winter’s Bone. Here, Lawrence continues to impress with her ability to project the most inner turmoil without uttering a word.  And now she can add action hero to her list of talents.  Playing her partner from District 12, Peeta, is Josh Hutcherson.  Josh is currently enjoying starring in two movies in the top ten thanks to the phenomenal success of “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island”.  Josh is wonderfully shy, tender, broken and brave.

With two more books to be turned into sequels, “The Hunger Games” mania is just beginning.  While this movie is portraying kids killing kids, it is done with an amazingly small amount of actual bloodshed.  But don’t let the thought that this is ‘kid fiction’ keep you from enjoying some first rate sci-fi about values and truths we all live with everyday.

“The Hunger Games” targets 3&1/2 Red Vines for being exciting and thoughtful