Rise of the Guardians – A Review

Here’s the most important fact that you need to know about Rise of the Guardians.

Hugh Jackman voices the Easter Bunny.

If that doesn’t pique your interest about this film, I doubt anything else will.

Rise of the Guardians in an animated film that features familiar characters, but with a slightly different spin on them. Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin) still is an ambassador for Christmas, but he’s a big, muscular man with a Russian accent and tattoos on each arm (Naughty on one arm, Nice on the other). The Easter Bunny (Jackman) has an Australian accent, a boomerang and is able to disappear into portals to avoid escape. The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) controls an army of little fairies that go out and collect the teeth that children lose; in other words, she outsources. The Sandman, who never speaks, uses his magical dream sand to communicate with others; he can also transform the sand into any object. The four characters are tasked as Guardians – people who are selected to protect the magic of childhood. Similar to The Avengers, The Guardians reunite when trouble is afoot.

The threat in Rise of the Guardians comes in the form of Pitch, aka The Boogeyman (Jude Law) who wants to turn all of children’s dreams to nightmares and make everyone stop believing in The Guardians. Pitch is jealous of all the attention and adoration that The Guardians receive and he wants to plunge the world into darkness.

To assist them in their battle with Pitch, The Guardians are sent a new member by the Man in the Moon (who apparently is the Charlie to their Angels): Jack Frost. Jack (Chris Pine) is struggling to find his place in this world. He is frustrated that children can’t see him and that no one knows what he does. Jack doesn’t understand why he was given his gifts and has no memory of his early life. He is skeptical that he has what it takes to become a Guardian; he’s more interested in having fun than in being a hero.

I generally enjoyed Rise of the Guardians; I’m always a sucker for the re-imagining of classic stories. I’m not the target audience for this feature, but I did find it entertaining. I like all of the actors who provided voices for the main characters; Baldwin was the big surprise. I knew the voice sounded familiar, but with the accent I didn’t immediately place it as the 30 Rock star. Chris Pine is a good match for the personality of Jack Frost and Jude Law makes for an effective villain. The idea of an Easter Bunny with an Australian accent never failed to make me giggle a bit. But somehow it just sort of worked; if you are going to believe in a six foot talking rabbit that hides eggs, the rabbit having a boomerang isn’t that far of a stretch when you really think about it. You have to buy into a lot to make this movie work regardless, so swallowing a bit more isn’t an issue.

Once again, it is impressive the leap and bounds that they have made in animation. The sequences in Rise of the Guardians were pretty spectacular to look at – lots of lush colors and effects that energized the action. The film does not suffer from a lack of things to look at; each scene is crammed with visual stimulation.

That gets to the root of my general problem with Rise of the Guardians – there was just too much going on. While it is visually pleasing and the voice actors turn in fine performances, the story could use some editing. I felt like there were too many story lines and characters and the film wound up not serving any of them particularly well. It was all too overstuffed and moved at a frenetic pace. I understand that the film is for children and perhaps they do better with the rapid fire type of storytelling, but for an old lady in her thirties, I thought it was it didn’t really do the concepts justice. It some ways it felt like they threw a lot at the screen to see what would stick. With a little more focus, I think this could have been a better film.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • I went to see this film Thanksgiving morning before meeting my family. It’s a tradition I started last year when I realized that the theaters were open and very empty. This year was no exception – it was me and what I am guessing were a bunch of divorced dads who had custody of their children and weren’t really sure what to do with them. They all looked a little overwhelmed.
  • While this is a kid’s movie, there were some sequences with Pitch that were a little scary – things briefly get a little dark with giant swirling “nightmares” – horses made out of dark sand – running amok. Every kid is different, of course, but it may be a bit too much for some smaller children.
  • Rise of the Guardian provided the best answer to why the tooth fairy wants to save your baby teeth. I’ve always thought that was a weird legend and wondered what she was supposed to do with all the teeth she collected. I imagined she turned them into jewelry like Ke$ha.
  • There are laughs in the film, but I didn’t find this movie nearly as funny as Wreck-It Ralph.
  • Sandman was very cute – because he doesn’t speak he reminded me a little of Teller from Penn & Teller

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  • The film is based on a series of books – The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce. Perhaps they tried to incorporate the elements of too many books into one movie, leading to the overload.
  • Once again, I didn’t spring for 3-D, but there are a few segments that I imagine would have looked pretty cool with an added dimension.
  • Though the movie is being hyped as a Christmas movie, which makes sense due to when it is released, it is really a hodge-podge. It isn’t Christmas time in the movie – it’s Easter – and Santa (or North, as he is referred to) doesn’t get as much screen time as Jack Frost or even Bunny.

Overall, I thought Rise of the Guardians was a cute and fun holiday movie for the kids and that adults won’t mind having to sit through. It wasn’t as charming as the Pixar movies or Wreck-It Ralph, but it was still an entertaining way to spend a morning. I think children will enjoy it more than the parents and guardians who take them due to the film trying to cover too much ground story-wise in a short amount of time. But the voice actors make the characters interesting enough and the animation is so effective that you can almost overlook the weaknesses in story.

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