Asa Butterfield

A simple tale amidst the horror

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a Holocaust fable, is meant to be a heartbreaker about the moral lessons to be gleaned from the friendship of two 8-year-olds, a Jewish concentration-camp inmate named Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) and the Nazi commandant's son, Bruno (Asa Butterfield). It plays like a cautionary tale about the perils of naivete. Although John Boyne's book has become a middle-school favorite (and the plot does work better in print), I found the movie impossibly basic and sanitized as a "never again" parable of the Final Solution - and simply wrongheaded as a story about children.

In classic novels by writers as different as Charles Dickens and Henry James,...