The Australian movie Penguin Bloom has all the ingredients required to produce a predictable piece of inspirational fluff.
A young mother is paralyzed after a terrible fall during a vacation. She withdraws from her husband and kids and laments the fact that she'll never be able to surf again. Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) feels so useless she wonders whether she even exists anymore.
I said the movie, based on a true story, is inspirational so you know from the outset that Sam will find a way to do more than simply carry on. She'll reclaim her life and thrive, and, yes, there will be pictures of the real people during the end credits.
The title clues an audience into how Sam's life again will take flight. One day on the beach, one of Sam's children discovers an abandoned magpie that has fallen from its nest.
The parallel between Sam and the magpie -- who the kids name Penguin -- is obvious. The bird fell from its nest, and Sam fell several stories when a rotted wooden railing gave way during a family trip to Thailand.
The movie's two notable performances are given by Watt and the bird (or birds) who play Penguin. Sam's husband (Andrew Lincoln) and her three sons (Griffin Murray-Johnston, Felix Cameron, and Abe Clifford-Barr) are around to provide upholstery for the main story.
Jackie Weaver plays Sam's mother, a woman who wants to help but doesn't really know how.
At first resistant to Penguin, Sam eventually warms to the bird Watching the bird nestle in her arms is bound to elicit oohs and awws. The various birds that play Penguin also are charged with providing comic relief, stealing teabags from cups or hopping through the family's beach home with jaunty spring.
A final push toward recovery arrives when a kayak instructor (Rachel House) gives Sam lessons that return her to the water. We're told in a postscript that Sam eventually competed successfully in water sports. For some reason, the movie never shows us that part of the story.
Mostly, director Glendyn Ivin plays things straight, and with a movie such as Penguin Bloom predictability is unavoidable.
It hardly qualifies as a spoiler to tell you that Penguin learns to fly, that Sam rediscovers her humanity, and that the family perseveres.
If you're looking for emotional complexity, Penguin Bloom is not for you. Even Watts can't turn Penguin Bloom into anything more than a familiar tale made more disarming by the presence of a magpie.
I did learn one thing, though. Who knew magpies were so damn smart?