Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rise of the Guardians (2012) - Nice Holiday Film for Kids

Rise of the Guardians: Interesting Entry to the Holiday Field

Film poster Rise of the Guardians

Back in the day, during the holiday season you were limited to a few classics that truly captured the holiday spirit.  Watching "Babes in Toyland" (1935) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1947) never seemed to get old.

The Guardians in Rise of the Guardians
The Boogeyman

Now, you have your pick of films that are expressly crafted around the holiday.  "Rise of  the Guardians" (2012), a Dreamworks Animation picture directed by first-time feature filmmaker Peter Ramsey, is a welcome addition to that growing list. It works by combining the magical and the human in vivid colors.  This is an adaptation of children's author 's "The Guardians of Childhood."

Group shot of the Guardians in Rise of the Guardians
A meeting of guardians

An evil spirit, Pitch Black aka The Boogeyman (Jude Law), wants to rule the children of the world.  He is opposed by The Guardians, who protect their hopes, beliefs and innocence.  The Guardians are immortal, mythical (apparently) beings who have been chosen by the Man in the Moon.

Sandman, Tooth and Bunny in Rise of the Guardians
Bunny, Sandman, Tooth Fairy

We meet: Bunny (Hugh Jackman), who looks a bit like a kangaroo, is very tall and a bit off-putting, and talks with an Australian accent; Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), who buzzes around as a part human, part hummingbird with a positive attitude; Santa aka Nicholas St. North (Alec Baldwin), who is a muscular man with a Russian accent who doesn't play around; Sandman, who doesn't speak but communicates anyway; and Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who can turn anything he touches into snow.

Jack Frost, Santa, Sandman, Tooth and Bunny in Rise of the Guardians
Jack has an idea

Jack turns out to be our hero.  He is a new addition to the Guardians, having just received his magical powers and become immortal.  All his life, he has been a bit of a miscreant, wanting to be better known than he is.  This story details how he matures and fulfills his true destiny.

Santa thinking hard in Rise of the Guardians
Santa is big and burly

Cinematographer Roger Deakins works here as a visual consultant, and he crafts a visual feast of blacks and golds that perfectly match the holiday spirit.  Executive Producer Guillermo del Torro creates an entire fantasy world that has exquisite detail.  The 3D animation works wonderfully, though it seems like a cross between animation and stop-action.  The latest animation techniques are used with a distinctive style that gives this film a unique look.

Sandman in Rise of the Guardians
Sandman is very colorful

To be sure, some might be put off a bit by some revisions.  A Santa with tatoos is just kind of odd, and it really isn't clear what Pitch really wants other than to do away with the Guardians.  Why do children have to believe in the Guardians in order for them to exist in the first place?  The film relies on an extended conceit that kind of wears thin, and even children - maybe especially children - may have a lot of questions that are unanswerable.

Jack Frost and Tooth Fairy in Rise of the Guardians
Tooth Fairy examining Jack

The elves, who traditionally are Santa's prime helpers, here are demoted to mere worker drones.  The music by Alexandre Desplat is nice enough, if not very memorable.  Screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire ("Shrek") puts his own unique spin on the holiday season.

Santa and Bunny in Rise of the Guardians
Bunny and Santa

For light-hearted family entertainment, the film is surprisingly dark (rated PG) and may give the youngest viewers a few good scares.

Jack Frost and Jamie in Rise of the Guardians
Jack and Jamie in a dazzling display of animation

With a title like "Rise of the Guardians" instead of something like "The Guardians of Time," you just know that they are planning on turning this into a franchise.  We'll see how the box office goes, but this seems more like a one-shot experiment along the lines of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" or Bill Murray's "Scrooged."

Jack and Bunny staring at each other in Rise of the Guardians
Jack and Bunny seeing nose-to-nose

It is a bit convoluted and precious, and it is difficult to see how you extend this sort of scenario into, say, the summer. The morals, though, are simple: everything is black and white, good versus evil, light opposing dark.

Jack Frost holding a spear in Rise of the Guardians
Jack is the most accessible character for kids

With those caveats, this is a good family film that pushes the boundaries of our childhood icons. If it is lucky, it could very well become a holiday staple for a new generation.



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