'Kite Runner' sticks close to the spirit of the novel

The Kite Runner (PG-13)

3 stars out of 4

Although Khaled Hosseini's novel "The Kite Runner" was a best-seller, it is unlikely mass audiences are going to rush out to see it. This is a movie arriving with a lot of unfriendly baggage, controversy and hard-to-swallow subject matter.

In all fairness, director Marc Forster's sprawling film offsets several indelicate subplots with a moving and inspirational main plot that spans decades. This is the only movie released in the last five years which addresses the issue of Muslim-based terrorism without any kind of political slant or marked agenda. For that reason alone, Forster and screenwriter David Benioff should be commended.

Just days before he is set to start a promotional tour for his first novel, San Francisco-based writer Amir (Khalid Abdella) is summoned by a friend of his late father to return to Afghanistan for undisclosed reasons. Decades earlier, Amir and his well-to-do, widower dad Baba (Homayoun Ershadi) fled the country shortly after the invasion by the Soviet Union. Although saddened by the loss of his homeland and opulent lifestyle, Amir perceives his emigration to America as spiritual cleansing for a horrific event he witnessed involving his friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada), who was also the son of his father's long time servant.

Condensing a novel so rich and detailed as this was a mammoth undertaking and Benioff ("Troy") does an admirable job. With only 122 minutes to present this thorny thicket of a story, the filmmakers obviously had to trim a great deal, but the spirit of the novel remains relatively intact.

Even with its occasional lulls and storytelling hiccups, "The Kite Runner" is an ambitious tale of enlightenment, sacrifice, regret and redemption. (Paramount Vantage)