Many of us reach a point in our childhood where that sense of wonder and belief in magical characters starts to fade and there are plenty of films that takes audiences back to those days, viewed from the eyes of the child and how they navigate those crossroads. Rise of the Guardians switches it up a bit and tells the story from the myth’s point of view with beuatiful backdrops, humor and mostly memorable characters.
Based on William Joyce’s story and picture books, Guardians of Childhood, the animated Rise of the Guradians pulls back the curtain to reveal the worlds of Nicholas St. North (Santa Claus), E. Aster Bunnymund (The Easter Bunny), Toothiana (The Tooth Fairy), Sandy (The Sandman) and Jack Frost. Aside from being the heralds of the holidays and symbols of young wonder, they’ve also been charged with protecting children from those that would cause harm or fear to their young benefactors. When an old enemy returns to share in the glory of being believed in by destroying their reputations, North, Sandy, Tooth and Bunny hesitantly encourage the mischevious Jack Frost to bring his unique talents to the team.
These aren’t exactly the characters you thought you knew. North (Santa), voiced by Alec Baldwin, is a massive tank of a man: a sword wielding cossack warrior with an army of yeti toy makers and a sleigh pulled by monstrous reindeer through the sky. The Easter Bunny is 6 feet tall, lean and has the attitude of Wolverine so Hugh Jackman’s voice is appropo. Isla Fisher’s Tooth Fairy is a human-hummingbird hybrid that commands an fleet of fairies to retrieve and store lost teeth that contain childhood memories.
The idea is a unique one. It gives a new perspective on the assumed origins of the characters and, in several ways, takes them each out of their element. Their elements being gorgeous. North’s arctic workshop is a tapestry-filled castle that tells its own story amongst a highly specialized toy manufacturing plant. Tooth’s digs resemble an aviary in the clouds. Bunny’s warren is the epitome of springtime with topiaries, flowers and giant egg gollums. Okay, so giant living stones aren’t very springtimey, but you get the idea.
The performances are good, though I felt Jude Law’s villain, Pitch Black, fell flat and forgettable. Despite actually being a sympathetic bad guy, Law’s voice was just too plain to be intimidating. Alec Baldwin’s North, on the other hand, really stole the show, so much so that a movie of his own might be in order.
Rise of the Guardians is visually and stylistically appealing, funny and fun but it doesn’t quite hit the highs that the more recent Wreck It Ralph does. Plus, it’s hard to classify this as a holiday movie despite the subject matter. The bottom line is that it’s good family fare that will make a decent choice for Thanksgiving weekend moviegoers that have already taken in the competition.