That’s one surly marching band. I love it.


Theatrical Release Date: 11/21/2012
Director: Peter Ramsey
Featuring the Voices of: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Khamani Griffin
Rated: PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action.
Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes


Trailer:

No, I can’t stand on my own. I need this pole.

Every time I saw “Rise of the Guardians” on a screening schedule, I kept thinking of “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole“. I suppose that’s a good thing because after avoiding trailers as I’m sometimes able to do, I walked into the theater with little to no expectations (reinforced by 2012’s lackluster animated landscape).

Of course, it just means this is another example of the adage about finding what you seek once you’ve stopped looking. “Rise of the Guardians”, based on the book by William Joyce, is an updated take on the characters that many kids grow up to realize were invented by adults to create an artificial manipulation of their actions. Some of them get new names in the film but the ideals they stand for are still intact.

Santa Claus allows a subtle blackmailing of the wee ones, the Easter Bunny helps make a religious holiday fun for the kids (there’s probably more to it but I’m a heathen), and the Tooth Fairy mitigates the mental trauma one should rightfully have when your chompers start falling our of you mouth. The film also throws in Jack Frost (who I only really related to Christmas songs and the nipping of my nose), the Sandman, and the Bogeyman – or Pitch, as they call him in this film. Each of them represents some basic element of the human condition, whether it be wonder, fun, compassion, or even fear.

What works for the film is the ability to deliver this basic good vs. evil tale within a simple construct and with loads of humor interspersed throughout. While it’s always fun to listen to an Australian Eastern Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), the scene stealers in the laugh department are from Santa’s workshop: the elves and the Yeti. They flipped it around so the elves are these tiny creatures that echo the playfulness of the minions from “Despicable Me” and the Yeti are the ones building all the toys while also providing security for the North Pole.

The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) helps to provide a heart to the whole proceedings, Santa (Alec Baldwin) is the ringleader of the group, and the story of Jack Frost learning about his past and embracing his role as a Guardian will be easy for the kids to understand; and is handled well enough for the adults to enjoy as well. Jude Law’s portrayal as the villain is a fun element also. The carefulness with which he has always approached language in his films brings a severity to Pitch that plays nicely against the warmth of Chris Pine’s Jack Frost (pun slightly intended).

To go along with the excellent voice work is very clean and crisp animation that nicely balances a playful and yet realistic style. What’s more is that this is one of those few examples where I say go right ahead and see this in theaters with the 3D glasses we all hope get sanitized thoroughly each and every time. Although usually just a result of producers’ and studios’ love of higher ticket prices, there’s a nice depth to the way they handle the 3D and it enhances the experience, which is the only reason filmmakers should employ the technology in the first place.

If you have very small children, you might want to wait to see this at home on a smaller screen or wait until they hit the 6 or 7-year old mark. It is rated PG and some of the actions brought forth by the villain may be scary for the youngest of moviegoers. Aside from that, however, “Rise of the Guardians” is the most fun I’ve had involving an animated film in 2012 and provides families with an entertaining and demographic-friendly option for the holidays. Considering your only option in recent years has been one of the awful Chipmunkstrosities, this is a huge step up.

4 out of 53D Yes