Rise of the Guardians

Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) has no recollection of his early life.  His memories start when the Man in the Moon called to him and gave him his ability to manipulate cold.  Now he travels the world bringing snow and ice to all the lands and snow days off from school for the children.  Jack is called to the North Pole to meet with the Guardians:  A collection of heroes who defend the dreams and ambitions of children.  The Guardians are the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman) and the Sand Man (who doesn’t speak).  Their leader is Santa Claus, also known as North (voiced by Alec Baldwin).  The reason the Guardians are meeting is because the Bogeyman, also known as Pitch (voiced by Jude Law), has evil intentions of robbing children of their dreams and replacing them with nightmares.  He also plans on preventing the Guardians from carrying out their seasonal duties so children will stop believing in them which will weaken them so they’ll be no threat to his evil scheme.  Jack initially refuses to join but when he sees Pitch in action, he becomes a reluctant member of the team.  Jack also sees this as a way to find out something about his previous life before he was Jack Frost.

“Rise of the Guardians” is a terrific kids film.  It gives the target audience all of their favorite holiday characters and creates a fully realized world around them.  Based on the book series “The Guardians of Childhood” by William Joyce, the film gives children a group of heroes who are sworn to protect the right of a child to be happy and carefree.  It’s a shame there aren’t real heroes who can do that job as efficiently in the real world.
“Rise of the Guardians” has a very lush feel to it.  The animators have paid close attention to the level of detail in their character and background designs.  Santa’s workshop has all kinds of toys, both real and imaginary, whirling around and a large collection of yeti building the toys.  Yes, I said yeti.  While there are elves they are mostly used by Santa as gofers and comic relief.  And this isn’t the Santa of your youth.  This Kris Kringle has tattoo sleeves running up both arms and is built more like a bodybuilder than a jolly fat man.  The realm of the Easter Bunny is bright and colorful with eggs that walk on two little legs and stroll through flowing rivers of color to become the many tinted holiday delights he delivers.  This bunny is six feet tall, speaks with a heavy Australian accent and uses boomerangs in his battles with Pitch.  The Tooth Fairy’s world is ablaze with jewel-tone colors and the air is filled with the little hummingbird fairies who do the actual picking up of the teeth and leaving the coins.  The Tooth Fairy is more of a manager.  We don’t see the realm of the Sand Man but he appears to be constructed of golden sand with streams going out in all directions to lull children to sleep and give them sweet dreams.  He doesn’t speak but communicates with images created from sand that appear above his head.  Where Jack calls home is the pond he remembers rising from when given his abilities 300 years before the events in the bulk of the movie.  He has solid white hair and appears to be about 15 years old.  He carries a staff around that focuses and emits his freezing powers.  This apparent lack of detail about Jack is intentional as Jack doesn’t know anything about himself and that greatly troubles him.  He wants to know what his early life was like which may give him some idea about why the Man in the Moon chose him.  He’s also bothered by the fact that nobody believes in him the same way they do the others.  He wants to be known and feel like he belongs.  Of course, before anyone believes in him he must believe in himself and that’s the primary message of the film.
The film moves at a frenetic pace, rarely giving the audience time to calm down from the previous action scene before it starts another chase.  That is in part the problem with “Rise of the Guardians.”  It throws so much action into its 97 minute running time that it tends to ignore the emotion and drama of the story.  The books the movie is based on are aimed at a rather young audience.  Some of the volumes are picture books for the pre-literate set.  While this group has the attention span of a goldfish and the film does its best to keep them involved, I would have liked to have seen a bit more for the older members of the audience.  After all, for every group of children in attendance there is probably at least one adult who deserves to be entertained as well.
“Rise of the Guardians” is rated PG for some mildly scary action and thematic elements.  Pitch is a very dark villain who could frighten very young children.  His nightmare horses have glowing eyes and a very menacing demeanor.  In one scene a person drowns which is handled as delicately as possible.  There are some battles between Pitch and the Guardians that could be overwhelming to very young viewers.
“Rise of the Guardians” does a very good job of creating a fully fleshed out mythology for its characters.  While it trades character development and plot for action scenes, there are more than enough bits and pieces of story for the audience to invest themselves in this reimagining of these well-known figures.  Perhaps, if there’s a sequel, the filmmakers will give the story a little more attention.
“Rise of the Guardians” gets five guitars.
As the end of the year approaches, we get more possible Oscar contenders hitting screens.  Vote for the film you’d like me to review next.
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Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
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