Rise of the Guardians – Movie Review

Why didn’t the idea behind the film, the gathering of childhood heroes during the Christmas season to banish The Bogeyman, take shape long before now? It seems so obvious that it could be a winner bringing nostalgia to older folks and a living history to young ones who still wait for the Tooth Fairy. 

Well, it didn’t but it has now and Guillermo Del Toro’s got his hand in it. It’s not sentimental, it’s anything but.  Children will be challenged, charmed and frightened.

The ghoulish opening sequence features a snowy blonde boy washing into the screen, and up, crashing out of ice into the dark, frigid world.  He doesn’t feel the cold, indeed, he has power over it.  But obviously somebody drowned.  What a way to start.  Take cojones and lets us know we’re in for an unusual seasonal journey.

The ice boy is Jack Frost (Chris Pine) a mischievous fun lover with the ability to fly around, nip at people’s noses and spread beautiful frosty patterns.  He encounters children playing with snowballs and joins them, but realizes he is invisible.  He doesn’t know where he came from or where he belongs and he realizes he’s in for a lonely existence.

Meanwhile North (Alec Baldwin) who we suspect is Santa Claus is preparing for the annual Christmas Eve trek around the world in his workshop, with the help of his elves.  It’s a magical, extravagant and jarring place wholly different from a dark, nighttime ice pond or a snow covered village green in its extravagance. 

The visuals get bigger, more surreal and extravagant, and contrast dramatically with the darkness brought by Pitch Black (Jude Law).  It’s a world of gargantuan proportions and lavish colored dreams and nightmares.

Hundreds of years later, when Jack meets the other childhood heroes Easter Bunny (an hysterically testosterone-charged Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher and the voiceless but ever so cute Sandman, he realizes this may be his family.   Together they prepare to overcome Pitch or depression and despair in the world, each with his own unique super power. 

Pitch is no ordinary villain.  Law’s seductive yet slightly threatening voice paired with a reptilian head and clustering darkness, with a humorless, sadistic character makes it entirely conceivable that this evil presence requires five heroes to face him.

The exceptional story is marred somewhat by frenetic, airless pacing that pretty much rules out emotional or character development.  It’s hectic and zany and crashing and the barrage of images is nonstop, but these things aren’t deal breakers.  The film is brilliantly original. 

The story, the look, the characters in this Avengers- style situation – never done before.  You can marvel at its originality and spunk.  It suggests sweetness and light but never gives us toothaches.  And with a children’s holiday fantasy, that’s all to the good.

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35mm animated action fantasy
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, William Joyce
Directed by Peter Ramsay
Opens: Nov 21
Runtime: 97 minutes
Country:  USA
Language: English

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