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Rise of the Guardians (2012)

| December 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

DreamWorks new animated adventure Rise of the Guardians comes packaged as a rip-snorting adventure yarn about beloved childhood icons like Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and Jack Frost who act as a kind of superhero action response team defending kids who, in these dark times, are finding less and less to believe in – most especially because it would put the icons out of work.  Putting away childhood things is a natural process of growing up, but The Guardians are determined to make sure that their P.R. never dies.

That also means that what started out as a genial and lovingly drawn book by William Joyce has been infused with all manner of 21st century technology and simple-minded storytelling (i.e. chases and fights).  On the basis of premise, it works.  On the basis of story, it resembles the same idea you’ve seen in dozens of other kids movies.

The story centers on Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) who wakes up in a frozen lake with no memories and is suddenly thrust into the bosom of a superhero action squad that monitors children’s beliefs.  We see Santa Claus (voice of Alec Baldwin), The Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Jackman) and The Tooth Fairy (voice of Isla Fisher).  Also around is The Sandman, a genial rotund cute little fella who only speaks through emblems that he makes out of sand.  None of these childhood icons are mentioned by proper names, they are called North, Bunny, Tooth and Sandy.  They are an interesting lot, just imagine if Hallmark rewrote The Avengers and you get the idea.

The story begins with Jack waking up in that cold lake and taking up the mantle of ice and snow.  He is given his assignment by The Man in the Moon (yes . . . The Man in the Moon) who places him into the Guardians to help them out.  Jack doesn’t remember anything of his past, but learns of his new powers.  He can whip around ice and snow and make some very creative snow days.  His problem: kids these days don’t even know who Jack Frost is.  In fact, most of us never really give old Jack a second thought except for a brief mention in that old Christmas song, do we?

The drama is provided by a villain, a nightmarish boogie man named Pitch (voiced by Jude Law), who enters children’s dreams and gives them nightmares.  His mission is to get rid of the Guardians so kids will stop believing.  Pitch is an interesting character.  He is seen as all black with an oddly shaped head that reminds us a little of the creature from Pan’s Labyrinth, only without the goat legs.

The best things about the movie are the redesigns of characters that we have grown up with.  Santa has the physique of a professional wrestler and speaks with a Russian accent.  The Easter Bunny has a chiseled chest and sports an Australian accent (one nice touch is that he is mistaken for a kangaroo).  The tooth fairy is designed more like a bird and, in fact, has a host of bird-like little friends who help her out.  But the most interesting is The Sandman, who can whip up almost anything made out of sand.  He’s the best character in the movie, but sadly stays off-screen most of the time.  He is so interesting, he deserves his own movie.

The plot is heavily about the idea of believing.  We are told to believe in Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman and Jack Frost.  Yet there’s an underlying issue that goes unresolved.  Two of the heroes – Santa and The Easter Bunny – are attached to holidays with religious themes, specifically the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.  The Bunny comes close to explaining the meaning of his holiday by reminding Jack that “Easter is about new beginnings”, but he stops short of getting deeper than that.  It seems rather cheap to ask kids to hold on to their faith in Santa and The Tooth Fairy but makes no mention of God.  What’s the message there?  Give us chases and fight scenes, but don’t ask us for anything more.  That seems rather false.

Now the million dollar question: will kids enjoy it?  Likely, but it will probably appeal more to the kids than to the parents.  It is a fun movie with lots of bright colors and colorful characters and fun chase scenes.  The villain meets an inevitable fate and the heroes are united as one.  All your basic stuff.  It’s a good movie, an entertaining movie, but not one that is likely to be handed down through the generations.  Although, be warned, The Easter Bunny sports a boomerang and your kids may want one for Christmas.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Kids