Studios will stop at nearly nothing to launch a new franchise in Hollywood, and the realm of family-friendly animated flicks is definitely no exception (one only need witness the latest Madagascar and Ice Age sequels for proof of their inexplicably lucrative nature). Now DreamWorks brings us Rise of the Guardians in an effort to cash in on present and hopeful future mediocrity that barely bothers with a threadbare story but sure looks (and sounds) pretty onscreen.
The movie’s story itself, which is rather simple even if the execution is far too frenetic, revolves around a group of mythical creatures (the Guardians of Childhood) who are best known for bearing gifts to human children. There’s Santa, a.k.a. “North” (Alec Baldwin); the Tooth Fairy, a.k.a. “Tooth” (Isla Fisher); the Easter Bunny, a.k.a. “Bunny” (Hugh Jackman); and the Sandman, a.k.a. “Sandy” (who sadly, has no voice). Everything is trucking along as planned with their various holidays until the nefarious Pitch Black (Jude Law) pulls some strings to make the children of the world cease to believe in the existence of these “Guardians.” Soon enough, the good guys enlist Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to help save the day, and the entire film is a massive, gigantic, impenetrable clusterfuck. Ultimately, this really should have been the story of Jack (who comes with an intriguing backstory that is touched upon in the film’s initial moments) if the filmmakers had wanted to infuse the story with any heart.
The script does officially pay lip service to Jack’s steps in discovering his past and his purpose as well as the steps he takes to become an official Guardian, but the attempt feels hollow and shoe-horned into the ton of wham-bam shit flying towards the screen throughout the tale. So instead of being a heart-warming tale, this is merely a series of virtual vignettes wherein the Guardians go galavanting through portals to save each of their individual realms from Black’s meddling ways. You’ll emerge from the film exhausted and wondering where the past 90 minutes of your life went.
Mind you, this is a gloriously beautiful film to witness if you’re merely looking for a shiny bauble with which to decorate your mental Christmas tree. The best visuals are associated with Sandy’s scenes full of shimmering gold dust, and it’s quite obvious that producer Guillermo del Toro had a hand in nearly every aesthetic aspect of this film. The unfortunate problem is that the journey of Rise of the Guardians is so jam-packed with ADD-addled design details and every possible action in the world crammed into one plot that there’s no time allotted for anything of substance.
On its surface, this film seems to have it all. A (theoretically) interesting premise, likable characters, and entertaining quests; yet it just doesn’t pull off the enchantment that a traditional, holiday-season type of children’s movie would hope to transmit to its audience. There’s no real heart or soul to be found here, but if you merely want to toss your money forth for about 90 minutes of frivolous, harmless entertainment, Rise of the Guardians certainly isn’t your worst option of the year. It just could have been so much more.
This movie is appropriate for nearly any age of child, but those over 12 or so are less likely to be impressed by all the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny motifs, and the film probably isn’t appropriate for any child under the age of 5 because Black’s antics can be slightly scary throughout the film. Overall, this film speaks to the power of positivity and the good-heartedness that pervades throughout all of the various holiday seasons. Oh, and consumerism mightily rises to the occasion as well, which I guess is quite appropriate given ticket prices these days. I wasn’t impressed by this Rise of the Guardians at all, and I’d definitely advise you not to shell out for the 3-D premium on top of regular ticket prices.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.