To borrow a quote from my father regarding the rivalry between Dreaworks and Pixar, “I think Pixar had better watch out”. Indeed, with Pixar as of late releasing dull, underwhelming films like Brave, Cars 2 and the pointless upcoming Monsters Inc. prequel whilst Dreamworks creates adventurous, imaginative thrill rides like How To Train Your Dragon and now Rise of The Guardians, is it still fair to label Dreamworks as the inferior studio?
The truth about this film, though, is that unlike most Dreamworks films that make shoddy attempts at being hip and adult, Rise of The Guardians is primarily for kids. It serves as a reminder of what kids love to see and that they don’t need slapstick or pop songs to be entertained. Sometimes great atmosphere and visuals are enough, and by God, I did not expect the studio that gave us Shark Tale to finally get that right!
So the story here is that all the icons of our childhood beliefs, that is to say Santa Claus (voice by Alec Baldwin), The Toothfairy (Isla Fisher), The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and The Sandman, are very real beings that have pretty much always been around to give children joy and happiness in the form of toys, candy eggs, pleasant dreams and, well, coins I guess. But all that is about to change. A dark force is approaching with the intention of spreading fear. A being known as The Boogeyman (Jude Law) is making his move and by corrupting the minds of many young children he will make sure that none of the four Guardians are believed in by anyone ever again. Basically, if the Guardians are God, The Boogeyman is Richard Dawkins.
The four guardians do indeed feel that their legacy is diminishing and that kids stop believing. But there is another force out there, a young and mischievous spirit named Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who might just hold the key to giving back faith to all kids and thus defeat The Boogeyman. But Frost is depressed over the fact that nobody believes in him as much as they believe in Santa, The Easter Bunny, The Toothfairy or Sandman. He has wondered about his purpose and origin for centuries, but by joing the Guardians in their battle, he might just discover the truth.
One complaint I have is that the title Rise of The Guardians isn’t very catchy or memorable. Even the usually inferior title of the Swedish dub, The Five Legends, is easier for me to remember. The original title is just going to have people confuse it with that weird owl-movie, Legend of The Guardians. Even the title of the book on which this film’s based, The Guardians of Childhood, would’ve had a better ring to it.
But nevermind. The movie offers some fantastic imagery, likable characters, lovely designs (Santa’s army of yetis looked the funniest), an intimdating villain, intense action and scenes that will warm the hearts of many but also frighten some viewers. It is a nice mix of scary, funny and adventurous and ultimately my thumb points upward.
True, the trailers for this movie ironically made me expect something more adult and action-packed where a badass Santa and his companions beat up bad guys and take crap from no one. I expected something as dark as ParaNorman; I surely did not expect something this child-oriented, and sometimes I did have a hard time sitting through certain scenes and jokes because they got a little too geared towards the younger viewers, but does that really matter? I’ll say no, because it does what it was intended to do superbly well. The kids in my audience were jumping with excitement and laughing with joy constantly. And at the screening of a film where the message is to think of and value what all the children love, what could possibly be more appropriate?
If there’s one thing older viewers will love, though, it’s definitely the visuals and action. My father, when we discussed this film, pointed out that this is one of the only movies he’s seen since The Raven – a 1963 B movie with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and a very young Jack Nicholson – that has a magic duel, where the opponents play tricks on one another and use their awesome powers in almost every way imaginable. This is the kind of battle we have seen very little of in the past few decades, he claimed. He might just be right.
Does Rise of The Guardians have problems? Are there jokes that fall flat? Are there great holiday-related gags they could’ve and probably should’ve employed? Yes, yes and yes. But that’s fine since this isn’t supposed to be a film for me. I won’t say I loved it, but I will say that I would take my kids to see this over Madagascar 3 any day!