I went into Rise of the Guardians with high expectations, and I probably shouldn’t have. Based on a book by William Joyce it seems I get to be the Grinch who says this movie isn’t the Christmas classic people are making it out to be. It’s cute and looks beautiful, but the story is cluttered with the typical things needed to keep kids attention, and the film stumbles around a religious message that seems poorly constructed. It’s a good movie, one that should delight audiences, but I doubt I’ll be buying this on DVD, or rewatching it later on down the road.
When the boogeyman Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) starts putting fear in children to make them stop believing in the mystical Guardians of the world, it’s up to Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), and a cadre of other holiday icons to band together in order to stop him.
I think the strongest element in Rise of the Guardians is the animation. DreamWorks Animation has differentiated themselves from their competitors at the House of Mouse for awhile now, but Rise of the Guardians cements their style. The magical sheen of snow and ice that Jack can lay down is exquisite on the big screen, looking like diamonds. The tooth fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher) is a work of art in my book, blending bird-like traits with a watercolor background. The voice casting is all well-done too. I even enjoyed Chris Pine as he works best voicing a cocky character like Jack Frost as opposed to playing one all the time. Each character’s voice is lively from Hugh Jackman’s exasperated Easter Bunny to Alec Baldwin’s Russian (?) Santa Claus called North. My favorite character had to be Jude Law’s Pitch. Pitch is such a smooth villain, and the way Law uses his voice is perfect. I couldn’t have seen any other actor in the role.
I think that was also the film’s biggest flaw, the changing of established characters. I heard a few children in my theater ask why Santa “talked funny” and wasn’t named Santa Claus. I’m not quite sure if the choices were from the book or not, but they’re odd and never explained. The film doesn’t want to delve into the religious messages of these holidays which are probably why the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman seem to be given the biggest roles in the film. This in spite of neither character being particularly dynamic. I did love the Sandman who is silent in the film, and steals all the scenes, but the Tooth Fairy is just a bland female character with little to enhance the role. The film does briefly mention Easter being “about new beginnings,” but that’s it. In fact, the film seems to force the idea of the Man in the Moon, yes that one, being some type of God allegory which I never understood. The film is so afraid to discuss the origins of Christmas, yet all the Guardians take orders from an omnipotent character that lives on the moon? I’m not asking for a long-winded discussion on the religious aspects of Easter and Christmas, but to ignore the fact they exist at all seems bizarre.
Rise of the Guardians doesn’t present anything new to the film industry or to the holidays. If you enjoy cocky Chris Pine playing a cocky character, then you’ll love it. The film is fun and quick, but there’s little to remember after it’s over. If you have children they’ll eat this up. If you’re an adult, there are better holiday movies out there.