Movie Review: Rise of the Guardians

Guardiansby Brad Nelson   12/13/13
This film came to my attention yesterday when I heard Glenn, Stu, and Pat talking about their favorite Christmas movies on The Glenn Beck Show. Glenn listed this as one of his top three, so I thought I’d take a shot.

This is certainly a competent animated feature. I’ll insert the big “but” right up front: This movie is nothing particularly special. Most of the story elements are just another proverbial instance of taking your typical movie, cutting it up into bits, and then re-assembling those bits at random. There is little here that you haven’t seen before. This is no Toy Story.

But there is some witty humor sprinkled throughout, some nice asides by Santa (called, for some reason, “North” in this movie). The Easter Bunny is kind of a psychedelic nightmare dream of a big rabbit from Down Under (voiced by Hugh Jackman). His presence is funny at first but the site gag ultimately goes nowhere. The Sand Man is mute but has his golden sparkling moments (if only in the animation of his sand which is often quite beautiful).

Chris Pine plays Jack Frost, the main character of this story. And this is where the animation shows its weakness. Much of the time, Jack is animated as if he was a partially-stuffed puppet. The movements aren’t always smooth and the animation of his facial features tend to let the air out of the suspension of disbelief of this being a real person that you would care about. Chris Pine is also no virtuoso in regards to doing the voice.

But Alec Baldwin is big and boisterous as the voice behind the Russian-accented Mr. “North” (Santa Claus). He adds some needed weight and charm to a film that otherwise could have easily been sunk by a lack of personality. Why “North” should be in the guise of a sort of jolly tavern bouncer is anyone’s guess (and surely there is a pagan-friendly element to this film, meant to keep a certain distance from anything more meaningful, which is why his name might be “North” in the first place).

Another better-than-average character (but in no way central to the story) is Tooth (the Tooth Fairy) voiced by Isla Fisher. This is a cute character, joining North’s triangle-shaped little elves in giving some much-needed charm to yet another fairly predictable animated story. You’ll watch this for such moments, for the story itself isn’t the main draw unless you are under the age of thirteen.

There is a villain, of course. And although the motivations of this villain, and his character animation, are nothing special, I think Jude Law did his utmost to insert some wickedness into the character. He is so successful at it that this dark “Pitch Black” (which is his nickname, which sometimes sounds as if people are calling him “Bitch”), and his outstanding performance, tend to reveal the paper-thinness of the rest of the movie. It’s an odd juxtaposition between animation frivolity (as noted by Jack Frost taking the young boy on an adventurous sled ride early in the film) and this sheer nastiness of this character.

The general premise of the film is that The Moon (the moon?) has, over the ages, anointed certain people with the task of being Guardians. They are to protect children and their dreams — to sort of keep them in a state of innocence (and free from fear…shades of FDR, was he a Guardian?). Jack Frost is recruited into this special group even as he stresses over the fact that he cannot be seen by children (apparently because the do not “believe” in him — I told you that the plot wasn’t anything special).

This eventually brings us to a backstory about why this is so. But like most of the plot of this movies, this plot element isn’t particularly well integrated or explored. It just is, thrown at you with an artist’s brush to make it seem to make sense even if it doesn’t.

Had they narrowed the focus of the plot a bit (perhaps even narrowing it to a funny Tooth Fairy story), it would have improved this movie. But it becomes a hackneyed mix of elements including the old standby of “We’re only real as long as the children believe in us.”

Watch this movie for a few of the clever gags and lines. But most of this you have seen before. • (791 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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