Rise of the Guardians
Directed by Peter Ramsey
Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire
Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law
How long is Rise of the Guardians? 97 minutes.
What is Rise of the Guardians rated? PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action.
A magical and visually stunning holiday adventure.
When cinema was just coming into maturity in the early 20th century, audiences were amazed by every image they saw whether it was of a family eating dinner or workers leaving a factory. With the advent of sound, talkies brought a whole new dimension to the experience of watching a film. Since that time, cinema has seen unbelievable advancements in technology, each of which makes the movie going experience new all over again for even the most seasoned (or disillusioned) viewer. This holiday season, audiences will get not only a great film the entire family can enjoy, but another huge leap in the capability of truly gifted filmmakers.
In Rise of the Guardians, we discover that not only are Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny real, they also comprise an ancient league chosen to protect mankind’s children. The Guardians, as they are called, are made up of some of the most beloved characters from our childhood who, as we grow older, become less and less real. North (Alec Baldwin), a.k.a Santa, is the group’s boastful and good-natured leader, an enormous Russian who sports full-sleeve tattoos (including “naughty” and “nice” on his forearms) and a booming voice. When he’s not arguing with Bunny (Hugh Jackman) over which holiday is more important (Christmas or Easter), he’s overseeing his workshop which, as it turns out, is run by a team of yetis and not by elves. (The elves are usually busy running around underfoot and trying to lick stuff.)
Helping North and Bunny is Tooth (Isla Fischer) who, along with her army of Baby Teeth, fly around the entire planet each and every night collecting children’s teeth and leaving gifts behind. She is a bit of a type-A personality and obsessed with pearly whites, but she’s good at her job. Rounding out the team is Sandy, a kind (but mute) soul who delivers good dreams to children as they sleep. With his iridescent, golden sand he is able to fly around the sky and make sure the kids all sleep soundly.
When the Guardians discover that the bogeyman, known as Pitch (Jude Law), has come back to unleash fear into the minds of children, they recruit Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to help them. A 300-year old prankster, Frost is invisible to children but the effects of his work (freezes ponds for ice skating, producing snow days) are always appreciated. While Frost has no interest in becoming a Guardian, he is the only one capable of defeating Pitch and keeping the children of the world safe from danger.
Rise of the Guardians is based on the incredibly inventive and imaginative series of children’s books by William Joyce and adapted for the screen by playwright/screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire (Robots, Rabbit Hole). Neither speaking down to its young audience nor boring adults with simplistic storytelling, Guardians entertains audiences of any age thanks to Lindsay-Abaire’s magnificent screenplay. The characters are wonderfully crafted and full of life. Though Jack Frost is the film’s protagonist and we learn the most about his backstory and mysterious “birth,” we get plenty of information about North, Tooth and Bunny through Lindsay-Abaire’s delightful writing and the actors’ brilliant performances.
The performances! Alec Baldwin has not been this much fun since Beetlejuice and maybe the first season of 30 Rock. North jumps off the screen thanks to Baldwin’s go-for-broke performance, and his thick, Russian accent puts Robin Williams to shame. Jackman is equally entertaining, playing up his own Australian accent because why not? With the hare-trigger (get it?) anger of Wolverine and way-too-serious attitude of Jack Nicholson, Bunny is a terrifically contradictory character that gets more enjoyable as the film progresses.
The real hero of the film is director Peter Ramsey and his incredible vision for this story. With perhaps the most impressive leap in animation technology since Toy Story, Guardians is like a powerfully addictive drug on which your eyes will happily overdose. Like so few films in recent years have successfully done, Guardians does not use the three-dimensional effect as gimmick to warrant higher ticket prices. Instead, Ramsey and his magnificent team made a conscious choice to use 3D animation but not to let it interfere with the storytelling or plot. There is nothing jumping out at the audience and no unnecessary shots of characters swinging out across the proscenium. Here, the three-dimension effect simply enhances the already mind-blowingly detailed animation that deserves to be played in slow motion just to bask in the intricacies that fill every single shot.
Rise of the Guardians is pure magic from start to finish and an excellent addition to the long list of great holiday movies.
Matthew Newlin lives in St. Louis, Missouri and has been a film critic for over six years. He has written for numerous online media outlets, including “Playback:STL” and “The Weissman Report.” He holds a Master’s of Education in Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and is an Assistant Director of Financial Aid. A lifelong student of cinema, his passion for film was inherited from his father who never said “No, you can’t watch that.”