The filmmakers on a quest to plumb the outer corners of young-adult fantasy for a Harry Potter-style franchise stumble with the initial outing in Kathryn Lasky’s Owls of Ga’Hoole series. The CGI animation provides Legend of the Guardians with a visually lush story about young owls who are kidnapped and take opposing sides in a scheme hatched by a megalomaniacal warlord owl to conquer primordial Australia. The setup makes the movie sound cheesier than it is. In fact, the dignified, quasi-Arthurian script never talks down to its young audience. There are no hip-hop wombats voiced by Wanda Sykes here, only one ill-placed pop song on the soundtrack. But verbose Tolkien-meets-Lucasfilm dialogue weighs heavily on the semi-predictable, sequel-pregnant plot. Even the birds occasionally tell each other to stop talking so much. But the digital design is excellent and worth seeing on the big screen. --Charles Cassady Jr.