Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Dreamworks Animation
Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Rated: PG (for thematic elements and some mildly scary action)
Director: Peter Ramsey
Writers: David Lindsay-Abaire, William Joyce
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher
Animation | Adventure | Family

Rise of the Guardians is supposed to be a Christmas movie, but in actuality, it is an all-seasons movie about belief in The Easter Bunny (hugh Jackman, voice), Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin, voice), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher, voice), the Sandman, and Jack Frost (Chris Pine, voice). But I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the role of the Moon who serves here as the heavenly host’s appointee to select earth’s guardians. Yes, that’s right, guardians—and all this time, you thought Santa and friends were just joyful gift-givers on earth.

Nope, they are guardians and they carry around some interesting weapons to do battle with whatever forces threaten the children of planet earth. And in this movie, the force at hand is “Pitch Black” (Jude Law), the fiendish giver of nightmares who stirs up disbelief in children. This causes Santa and the gang to weaken when faith begins to wane, and the fairies, holding onto precious childhood innocence, are kidnapped.

A looming lack of belief in these legendary characters is the major crisis. But Moon has a plan, a new elect to make of one of these powers the protector of earth. The moon has in mind a whimsical and carefree Jack Frost to oppose Pitch Black as he strikes the world after having been banished since the end of the dark ages.

But the others can’t see the reasoning behind this; Jack Frost isn’t even believed in anymore, and for this reason, no mortal can see him even when he wishes it. And the bringer of snows and blizzards isn’t happy with himself, either. He doesn’t remember his past and his team has little faith in him—a weakness Black immediately tries to exploit. So suffice it to say, things don’t look good for the youngsters of planet earth (but neither do they for the film at large).

Rise of the Guardians starts out the film three days before Easter and runs across nightly tooth fairy visits and the elves as they prepare for Christmas. It all becomes impossible because of Pitch who raids the North Pole and every secret location to cause children to stop believing.

And what does Santa and team do about it? They race over to the hit locations (always too late) and get bad news. When facing their enemy, they draw their weapons which doesn’t really make a lot of sense to use since they are all beings of legendary power who can only exist when people believe in them and cannot die by, say, a stab to the chest.

Santa sounds like some Russian mobster. His forearms are tattooed as well (what has happened that even our movies for 9-year-olds must be passed out like prison prep handbooks for inner-city thugs!) The Easter Bunny is a 6’1 backyard bunny, but he loves using his boomerangs (again, why we don’t know). His is probably the most likable character here, or perhaps you prefer the Sandman who never utters a word. If you really want to hand out the kudos, though, it is the villain who gets them here with Jude Law’s Pitch Black being among the more memorable pieces of animated conjuring we’ve seen in a while.

But what is memorable (for mostly the wrong reasons) is that this movie is an exercise in emotional overkill. So much time is spent discussing the crisis and sulking in pathos-plucking CGI that the movie practically waits to get through to the slowest of the youngest kids in any audience. The rest of the time, the usual wasted remarks about why the sleigh has no seatbelts are what we get.

Much of the imagination is used up to justify shiny peripherals, facial expressions, and leeching flashbacks. The film cannot be abbreviated enough to keep things interesting. Its all quite colorful, but disgusting references to “blood and gum” on teeth to go with the huge helpings of through-the-ringer drama are too much.

The film is so busy at trying to make plot connections with alternate sources of drama that only an example can demonstrate the lengths to which it will go; consider how at one point, we see an electronic map where only ONE child remains alive in all the world who still believes. Really?? Just one child out of 7 billion+ people continues to believe??

They can’t leave well enough alone, as the tiring and heart-pulling ploys get evermore intense through the end. I’m disappointed in the types of kid’s movies today. Everything is colorful and flashy, but not substantive, and most try to accomplish way more than they should. And when they do, it is simple emotional manipulation like this film. The little ones may not mind it, but the rest of us will (and should).