"The Legend of the Guardians" is another attempt to launch a franchise from a series of apparently popular children's books. Instead of young wizards, you get owls.

"The Legend of the Guardians" is another attempt to launch a franchise from a series of apparently popular children's books. Instead of young wizards, you get owls.

And directing his first computer-animated feature for kids? Zack Snyder, of such noted children's classics as "300" and "Watchmen."

The story is a convoluted tale of a young owl who has been raised on legends of badass warrior owls and longs to be one. Or something like that. I know it's based on a kids' book, but I needed the Cliff's Notes to follow it.

One big problem: Unless you're an ornithologist, owls all sort of look alike. And in a fantasy story as complex as this - it's like "Lord of the Rings" lite - confusing characters can become a pretty big problem.

Snyder is known more for his style than his substance. That's not always a bad thing. "300" is still a visual treat, and his ambitious "Watchmen" is quite underrated.

But applying his signature extreme-slow-mo switches in violent (but bloodless) owl battles comes off a bit silly. Some sweeping visual moments - quite jaw-dropping in 3-D - can't save these owls.