As anyone who knows me or reads my reviews knows, I use my grandson as my barometer for children’s movies, but I do consider myself a true child-at-heart, so imagine my dismay when he, now eight, informed me that his parents are Santa Claus and Santa doesn’t really exists. Nor, according to him, does the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny – all mom and dad. This revelation has not, however, deterred him from loving the holidays, enjoying the gifts and watching holiday movies. We cut out of his hockey practice early to see this year’s holiday film offering, Rise of the Guardians, neither of us was disappointed.
Rise of the Guardians, adapted from the William Joyce book series, The Guardians of Childhood, brings together Santa (Alec Baldwin), Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Mr. Sandman and a reluctant Jack Frost (Chris Pine) and pits them against Pitch Black (Jude Law) aka the Boogieman, who wants to steal all the holidays and innocence from the children of the world. It appears that children no longer believe in the Boogieman and this just won’t do, so Pitch plans to turn the tables, by keeping the kiddos from believing in all the important childhood wonders.
This delightful array of voice actors give spot-on performances, each bringing his or her own take to the character. Gentle and bold Santa, according to Baldwin has a Russian accent, spunky, boomerang wielding Bunny hails from Australia, and Jack, invisible to children, evokes empathy at Pine’s hand. The Sandman has no voice, making his thoughts known in adorable sand images floating above his pointy, sandy-haired head and Fisher’s the Tooth Fairy has all the necessary sweetness and pluck. Even the tiniest of helper tooth fairies, looking a great deal like hummingbirds, are wonderful imagined in beautifully vivid animated renderings. Oh, and Law deserves special notice as Pitch, the sole baddie in the film; his tone giving all the necessary sinister creepiness to the evil that lurks in the shadows.
Visually Rise of the Guardian’s, although not groundbreaking, is lovely and exciting, even if the story harbors few unforeseen surprises. Tooth’s “clothes” and wings sparkle like scales on the prettiest fish. The Sandman spins and twirls creating exceptional golden trails of sand in the sky, like streamers, flying to send children off to magical dream-filled sleep, and Jack is a marvel with ice and snow, his animators creating brilliant winter wonderlands with a swoosh of Frost’s magical staff. Each detail from the fur on Bunny’s coat to the trim on Santa’s sleigh brings wonder. Egg’s march towards their hiding places on Earth, Bigfoots make toys, although Santa’s adorable, little elves think they do. Tooth collect’s incisors with the zeal and glee of a child at Christmas and Santa’s super-sleigh soars like a spectacle through the night sky.
Beyond the beautiful animation, David Lindsay-Abaire’s script, although simple and predictable, is witty and smart, and offers ample action too – just enough wallop for the little ones. I could hear my grandson, seated four seats down from me, giggling hysterically several times – and I love that sound! Because of this simple thing, the clear joy of a child, even one who has stopped believing, I say BRAVO to DreamWorks. I won’t say that Rise of the Guardians will find its way to “Holiday Classic” status, but it’s a good time for the whole family and a nice diversion this holiday season. I give it a B-.