Rise of the Guardians review

You’ve got another reason to be appreciative this Thanksgiving Eve courtesy of Rise of the Guardians, an inspired, fun film that imagines a world where mythical figures like Santa Claus and The Sandman are kick-tail action heroes.

(From left) Jack Frost (Chris Pine), North (Alec Baldwin), Sandman, Tooth (Isla Fisher) and Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman) band together to defeat Pitch.

The characters, storytelling and animation reach Pixar-level of greatness and Guardians is the best action/animated film since The Incredibles.

 (From left) Jack Frost (Chris Pine) keeps up with Jamie (Dakota Goyo).

Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood book series, the film starts off introducing us to Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine, People Like Us) — envisioned as a fun-loving teen who gets a kick out of helping kids enjoy their snow days. Jack can’t remember how he gained control over snow and ice, but he’s more concerned that he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to spend his immortal life.

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When Pitch (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) emerges from the shadows intent on making children fear him again, the Man in the Moon reunites the Guardians with new addition Jack to stop him. In a lively montage, we meet North (Alec Baldwin, Rock of Ages) — or Santa Claus — hard at work crafting toys; Bunnymund (The Prestige’s Hugh Jackman) prepping eggs for Easter; Tooth (Isla Fisher, Bachelorette) sending her fairies out to collect teeth and the Sandman with his weaving strands of sand helping children enjoy pleasant dreams.

Sandman prepares to battle Pitch (Jude Law).

The cast interject such personality into their characters that they at once seem familiar while giving the Guardians’ world an international feel — who says Santa Claus can’t be Russian and the Easter Bunny isn’t an Australian native? The character designs are inspired with the towering North sporting Naughty and Nice tattoos on each bicep and wielding a pair of swords into battle while the diminutive Sandman is a mute who communicates via sand images.

Peter Ramsey, a longtime storyboard artist on films such as Fight Club, Men in Black  and Minority Report, makes a smooth transition in his directorial debut and his experience determining the best angles in such films is evident. The action scenes are clean and well-thought out so you can easily make out everything that’s happening. The quality 3D work is a welcome bonus.

[From left] Jack Frost (Chris Pine), Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman), North (Alec Baldwin) and Sandman show off their holiday loot.

Robots screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire easily could have made Guardians a kid movie, but he writes one that doesn’t treat them like babies. There’s some bits just for laughs — North’s frustrated Yeti workers is a fun running gag — but Lindsay-Abaire never gets too cute and gives kids credit in being able to handle themes like death, loneliness, desire for acceptance and searching for one’s purpose. Not so strangely, it makes for an animated movie that adults can relate to as well.

The film plays out like a superhero team origin movie with Jack as the newcomer and the plot covers familiar staples —loner struggles to become a team player, team doubts loner’s abilities, etc. — but thanks to a quick runtime of 94 min., it doesn’t drag out, making for an adventure that almost ends too soon.

I loved this movie and am already eagerly anticipating the sequel as I’d love to see what the creators could up with for guardian versions of Father Time, Mother Nature or Old Man Winter. Definitely make sure you catch this surprisingly great holiday treat.

Rise of the Guardians - Easter Bunny, Mr. Sandman, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation

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