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Rise of the Guardians Review

November 21, 2012 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos
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Rise of the Guardians Review  

Directed by Peter Ramsey
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Animation by DreamWorks
Music Composed by Alexandre Desplay

Chris Pine … Jack Frost (voice)
Alec Baldwin … North (voice)
Jude Law … Pitch (voice)
Isla Fisher … Tooth (voice)
Hugh Jackman … Bunny (voice)
Dakota Goyo … Jamie Bennett (voice)
Khamani Griffin … Caleb (voice)
Kamil McFadden … Claude (voice)
Georgie Grieve … Sophie Bennett (voice)

Runtime: 97 min
MPAA: Rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action
Official Website

Something happened in 2008 and DreamWorks suddenly became a strong rival to Pixar. While the early Shrek movies were enjoyable, DreamWorks was always seen as a pop culture based animated studio, cute and funny, but nowhere near as original and groundbreaking as Pixar. However, in 2008 DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda and then, when How to Train Your Dragon hit two years later, DreamWorks approached the level of Pixar when it came to originality in storytelling.

While Rise of the Guardians may not be as groundbreaking as those other two movies, it continues DreamWorks recent run of creating animated films that remain enjoyable and original. In another addition to the solid slate of 2012 animated movies, Rise of the Guardians might be the best when it comes to enjoyment for the entire family, regardless of age.

The Guardians are a group of individuals named by Moon to protect the children of earth and bring joy and happiness to the world. There are four heroes in this group, North (Santa Claus), Tooth (The Tooth Fairy), Bunny (The Easter Bunny) and Sandy (The Sandman). Between the work of these four individuals, they help keep the world happy and children are able to get through their childhood, retaining their dreams and joy.

However, when kids stop believing in someone (or never believed in someone to begin with), that person can no longer help the kids in any significant way. There are two people in this movie that matches that definition. The first is our hero, Jack Frost. Everyone has heard of “Jack Frost nipping at your nose,” but the real Jack Frost really can’t do anything but create ice and help give kids snow days off from school. However, because no one really believes he is am actual being, Jack never gets any credit and lives a lonely life where almost no one knows he even exists.

The second is Pitch, The Boogey Man. While Sandman brings the children nice dreams, Pitch is the man who kids fear as the Boogey Man who hides under their beds. However, when kids learn the Boogeyman isn’t real and can’t hurt them, he does even less than Jack Frost. Kids don’t know who Frost is but they reject Pitch, which causes him to want to do anything he can to get his powers back.

The movie starts with an introduction to Jack Frost’s “birth” and then flashes forward 300 years to a period where Pitch finally mounts his attack on the Guardians. In this manner, The Guardians are the animated fairy tale version of The Avengers. That is where this movie soars, as the four legendary holiday figures are re-imagined in wonderful and fun ways.

Alec Baldwin gives North a Russian accent, a big man who always talks about the “feelings in his belly” when something is coming. He is large and intimidating but also has the joyful wistfulness of Santa Claus. Hugh Jackman gives Bunny a wonderful cocky Australian accent and even has boomerangs as weapons, making him a nice antithesis to North. Sandy is a wonderful creation, a small, plump and happy individual who doesn’t talk but has his thoughts displayed as symbols popping up above his head. Isla Fisher’s Tooth is the only one that really falls short, with nothing really shining about her character.

There are also some very nice side characters, including the Yeti’s that protect the North Pole and make Santa’s toys, the small elves who are just there to be cute, and Tooth’s mini assistants. These are all wonderful creations and there should be a ton of toys that come out of this movie for the kids.

The story is a nice one as well. Jack Frost learns that, after 300 years, Moon has finally chosen his destiny, naming him one of the Guardians. However, Bunny doesn’t think he deserves it and Frost has no idea what he can bring to the table. When Pitch starts sabotaging Tooth’s missions, more kids stop believing. When he takes out Sandy, even more kids fail to believe anymore and then he targets Easter. When only one child is left believing, the Guardians lose their powers and it is up to Frost to finally take action and do what the iconic founding members of the Guardians couldn’t do.

There is a lot of action in the movie, but unlike something like ParaNorman, the violence and battles here are nowhere near as scary for younger kids, and this remains something that is exciting and thrilling and good family fun for all ages. The entire story is for Jack to discover what he has been put on Earth to do and then fulfill his destiny. There is also a nice lesson in how believing in something will always help defeat the darkness and keep the world a happy place.

I want to take a minute to talk about the animation. DreamWorks continues to work with the animation style that worked so well in How to Train Your Dragon. However, they did something different here. I don’t know exactly what it was, but something about the designs of the characters, specifically Jack Frost, brought back memories of the classic Christmas movies from Rankin/Bass, such as Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The entire time I watched the film, it was very much a DreamWorks animated film, but it also triggered those memories that made it a little more magical to me.

The 411Rise of the Guardians joins last year's Arthur Christmas as part of the new crop of Christmas/holiday movies that really rise to the top of the sub-genre. This is a new era of animated filmmaking, with so many great films coming out in 2012 alone. In a year where Pixar had a slightly off campaign, this Oscar race is anyone's game and Rise of the Guardians should be a strong contender heading into the awards season. With a great voice cast providing some masterful humor, fun action scenes, and a wonderful story, DreamWorks created their first true holiday classic.
Final Score:  8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend

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Shawn S. Lealos

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