With the holidays fast approaching, I hoped “Rise of the Guardians” would get me in the spirit of the season. This animated movie stars Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law and Hugh Jackman.
The Guardians are an elite group of mythical figures, including Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, who were chosen to protect the world’s children as long as the children believe in them. When The Bogeyman, referred to as Pitch, returns to take down the Guardians and bring fear to children everywhere, the Guardians must recruit a reluctant Jack Frost into their organization.
The story isn’t anything special, just a generic children’s movie. It’s slightly dark, tougher spin on childhood myths seemed like an interesting premise, but it just didn’t deliver — the ideas don’t exactly fit together.
The movie tries to balance superhero-like action with warm feelings of childhood innocence, and it doesn’t work well. For example, when you go to see a movie with Santa in it, you don’t expect to see him in so many action sequences or bearing giant tattoos on his arms. Characters you remember from childhood are portrayed as tough heroes and rebels fighting a villain that looks a lot like Lord Voldemort. The Tooth Fairy feels too innocent in comparison to her cohorts. Holiday themes of wonder and belief are present, but warm moments take a backseat to everything else and just feel odd in comparison to the scenes that surround them.
All this roughness is oddly balanced with humor that doesn’t seem to belong in the movie.
Santa’s elves are goofy — the exact opposite of their not-so-jolly boss — and are at the center of many gags. The simple humor does have a certain charm to it, but it feels like a secondhand addition to the film to keep its young audience members’ attention. The dialogue isn’t as clever: jokes mostly boil down to cheesy one-liners. The movie contains many creative ideas seemingly thrown together, which results in action-packed clutter.
The voicework in the movie ranges from good to annoying. Jack Frost’s voice is rather generic and Jude Law’s Pitch is an evil enough villain. The Easter Bunny is voiced by the same actor as “X-Men’s” Wolverine — Jackman — and sounds and acts a lot like him. Santa has an odd accent and the Tooth Fairy’s voice is just annoying. Thankfully, Sandman doesn’t talk at all. While they have the skin of childhood memories, none of the characters feel special; they are all rather one-dimensional and dull.
The animation is definitely a high point, as it’s something Dreamworks has always done well. If the movie was meant to capture the wonder of childhood, the visuals are the only thing that does the job. Santa’s workshop has a classic Christmas appearance; the Easter Bunny’s land is green and full of pastel colors; and the Sandman’s golden conjurations are amazing. There’s an obvious difference between the real world and fantasy, but both look great. While I may not be a fan of the action storyline, the action scenes looked great, especially due to the 3D.
“Rise of the Guardians” isn’t anywhere near the perfect holiday film. It’s a mix of a lot of ideas that don’t fit together exactly right. That isn’t to say it’s terrible — there are some redeeming qualities in its animation and occasional holiday themes — but as a whole the movie is nothing more than passable.