Rise Of The Guardians
Despite a generic and instantly forgettable title, "Rise of the Guardians" is a dazzling adventure that is a mostly solid holiday treat suitable for anytime of the year.
On the cusp of Easter, Jack Frost (Chris Pine), invisible to the world around him because no one believes in him, is recruited to join Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the silent Sandman as a guardian of the hopes and dreams of children when the boogeyman, Pitch (Jude Law), decides to obliterate goodness from the world by stopping children from believing in their heroes. The problem is Santa, Tooth, et al, exist only if children do believe in them.
It’s a fun idea and the visuals, sound, and 3-D are stunning (it’s definitely worth paying the 3-D surcharge). First-time feature film director Peter Ramsey has a sure hand and knows how to impress with color and action. The action sequences are breathtaking, creative, and over-the-top. The actors all have fun with their roles, with Law’s gravitas, Fisher’s comedic timing, Jackman’s braggadocio, Pine’s eagerness, and Baldwin’s bluster being perfect fits for their respective characters.
But for all its flashy pizzazz and hyperkinetic action set pieces, "Rise of the Guardians" still never resonates deeply enough to be a home run. The issue is the script by Pulitzer Prize winner and multiple Tony Award nominee David Lindsay-Abaire ("Rabbit Hole"). It’s silly and sweet and clever (a nod to 1986’s "Crocodile Dundee" will go over the heads of kids, but parents will chuckle), but it drags in parts and there’s so much exposition it draws attention to itself and becomes plodding, making the film feel longer than its 97-minute running time. Some people may go into sugar shock as Santa’s elves (basically the minions from "Despicable Me") and Tooth’s helpers, the Baby Teeth, charge past the border of Cute into Cute Overload.
And though this may have been in the pipeline long before "The Avengers" was in production, it’s similar in theme (disparate heroes must band together to fight an evil that is bigger than they are individually, then quarrel and quibble and eventually suck it up and learn how to get along). Even more problematic is that it’s not as clever or thrilling or emotionally fulfilling as this past summer’s superhero caper.
Will this bother children? Of course not. Will it bother adults? Probably not either. And should it? No, not when there’s energy and beauty to spare. "Rise of the Guardians" may not reach the heights of "Toy Story," but it also doesn’t hit the lows of "Cars 2." Children, parents, and those who are simply young at heart will be happy to be transported even if it’s not a journey they remember for long after it’s over.