Does Rise of the Guardians rekindle our childhood love for the holidays? Read on to find out.
As Fall begins its blustery journey, earnestly pushing out Summer in preparation for the silent darkness of Winter, Rise of the Guardians seeks to get us into the holiday mood with an enjoyable and solid animated effort. Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) is a 300-year-old troublemaker with no memory of his previous life, except that the silent Man in the Moon somehow played a role in his creation. Jack lives for the moment, encouraging cold temperatures and orchestrating playful snow fights between the kids, even as yet another Spring takes its foothold. Although his origin remains a mystery, he's sure of one thing: children cannot see him due to their lack of believing. They think the Snow Days and the yearly onslaught of Winter are due to natural, not human forces, representing the greatest disrespect by failing to give him the credit his lonely soul so desperately wants. No wonder he's without friends or family. On the other end of the spectrum are the four most popular holiday characters ever assembled: The Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), The Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher), Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), and the tiny muted Sandman. To the children of the world, their deeds have made them nothing less than heroes, whether it be Sandman's night time orchestrations, or the promise of a shiny coin for every lost tooth. Santa and Bunny don't get along, mostly due to the friendly competition of vying for the top holiday - Bunny thinks his rabbit holes can beat Santa's reindeer anytime. But when dark forces led by Pitch The Boogie Man (voiced by Jude Law) threaten to end the world's love for their heroes, Santa recruits Jack into The Guardians, a secret society that promises to protect the children of the world. Together, The Guardians must win back the day, even as the world begin to lose all faith in their holiday characters.
Newcomer Peter Ramsey masterfully paints Rise in a broad landscape of color and detail, whether it's the cold and precise detail of Santa's flowing beard or the brilliant colors of Tooth Fairy and her fleet of mini fairies. The effect takes us on a wild sensory overload of the seasons and the various environments, people, and creatures within, such as Santa's fortress at The North Pole. There, his craftsmen are not the wayward and bumbling elves but the furry yetis, whose artistic geniuses falls short in Santa's eyes, yielding several very funny scenes courtesy of Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire. We've never seen the world of The Guardians in this detail, which give Ramsey and Abaire free license to establish it themselves; the result is a sympathetic but grandiose Claus from Russia (well-voiced by Baldwin) and a terrific Australian Bunny with boomerangs voiced by Jackman. His world is imagined as a magical place where eggs are hatched by flowers and colored in the streams of his forest, while Sandman orchestrates intricate golden strings of light to carry dreams to children. Yes, it's all a bit far-fetched, but it works extremely well. Based on the William Joyce book The Guardians of Childhood, young audiences will find answers to their most basic questions about these characters, while parents will fondly remember prodding mom and dad for the same. Composer Alexandre Desplat (The Golden Compass) weaves a musical tale complete with bold themes and tender pieces as Jack searches for his origins in a mysterious container held by The Tooth Fairy. The 3D experience is worth spending the extra cash, as Ramsey brings every seasonal element into sharp focus for us to enjoy. The final effect is another winner for Dreamworks, whose effort outdoes this year's Madagascar 3. 11
Overflowing with sentiment and cuteness, and designed to elite as many 'Awww' moments as possible, Rise of the Guardians performs admirably as a children's movie. As an adult film, it rekindles the spirits of unseen holiday characters, making one question the value of staying on Santa's 'Naughty' list. Dripping with sentimentality and surrounded by an excellent voice cast, only time will tell if Guardians takes its place among the giants of holiday cinema. For now, enjoy this film with your children, as it's a solid effort. It might even encourage you to put some cookies out this year for Santa. Rise of the Guardians is rated PG for dark themes and has a runtime of 97 minutes.
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