Let’s get one thing straight, Rise of the Guardians (based on William Joyce’s book, The Guardians of Childhood) is not a sequel to Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Ga’Hoole. Yes, the title is a bit confusing, but this movie has no owls ripping off The Secret of NIMH, but does feature some elves that show Despicable Me’s minions a thing or two about what funny really is. With the holiday season upon us, there was bound to be something released featuring Santa Claus in one form or another. Last year we got a new classic in Arthur Christmas, and this year DreamWorks Animation has decided to one up it by gathering together most of our childhood mythological beings for Rise of the Guardians.
Beginning with the icy birth of Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), he discovers his newfound powers. He also discovers that no one can see him because no one believes in him yet. Three hundered years later – three days till Easter – and we find Jack Frost still nipping at our noses, and that Pitch Black – aka the Boogeyman (voiced by Jude Law) – has decided that it’s his turn to rise. Yet, he isn’t the one who was chosen by the Man in the Moon. Much to the chagrin of the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman) it’s Jack Frost. With their sordid past behind them, they discover that along with North, aka Santa (voiced by Alec Baldwin); Tooth, the tooth fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher); and Sandy, the sandman; they must all join forces to take down Pitch before he turns every child’s dreams into nightmares and the world’s children stop believing in them and they lose all their powers.
Director Peter Ramsey has crafted not only one of the best family-friendly holiday films in years, but one of the year’s best animated features. The last half of this year has seen a steady incline with each release, from ParaNorman to Frankenweenie to Wreck-It Ralph, now Rise of the Guardians has swooped in to try and beat them all. The voice cast delivers some raucous quips while the elves and Yeti’s are on standby to provide the film’s more hilarious sight gags. Backed by some fantastically rendered animation and a fun use of 3D, you just may once again believe in the likes of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and even Jack Frost.
Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (Pulitzer Prize winner for his play Rabbit Hole and recently tapped to rewrite the Poltergeist remake) has managed to make everything we used to believe in as children a quasi-reality. (As much as I despise the idea of anyone trying to remake Poltergeist, Lindsay-Abaire truly has my blessing as he’s been able to so successfully blend family-friendly with the macabre.) Yes, parts of the film get a little dark, but that probably has more to do with executive producer Guillermo del Toro’s sensibilities, which are welcome in spades. All in all, with Rise of the Guardians, the year’s best animated feature has also risen and once you see it, you’ll believe it.
Photos courtesy DreamWorks Animation