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Out & About

March 29, 2012

'Hunger Games' offers universal appeal

The legions of fans for Suzanne Collins's "The Hunger Games" novels can now rest easy. The movie adaptations are in good hands.

"The Hunger Games" film makes a few compromises, but it is emotional and action-packed and true to the source material — and Jennifer Lawrence does not disappoint as the iconic young heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

For the uninitiated, "The Hunger Games" is set in a dystopian version of the future. The nation of Panem has been built on the war-ravaged remains of North America, with one decadent capital region surrounded by the 12 starving, working-class districts.

As punishment for long-ago transgressions, each district is forced to surrender two children — one boy and one girl — to the Hunger Games, a vicious battle-to-the-death, which is televised and glorified throughout the nation.

Katniss comes from District 12, a coal-mining region that bears a striking resemblance to the poor Ozark land inhabited by Lawrence's character in her Oscar-nominated breakout role in 2010's "Winter's Bone."

When her helpless younger sister is selected for the Games, Katniss bravely volunteers and is thrust into the violent countryside of the arena with 22 foes and the district's other "tribute" — Peeta Malark, the smitten son of a baker.

Lawrence gives a strong and textured performance as the capable but conflicted teen with a talent for archery and survival. Katniss is determined but often conflicted and uncertain, and Lawrence is able to convey an array of emotions without uttering a word.

Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids are All Right") is solid and likable as Peeta, though his character comes across more as a generic nice guy. Hutcherson's Peeta doesn't have the same layers of complexity as the book's version, though there's still room for that to develop in the two remaining movies.

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