LITTLE ROCK It takes a unique film to make Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy seem dreary or even unappealing. Rise of the Guardians takes a great idea for a family film and turns it into a cartoon that young children might like as their parents are eying the exit signs.
The setup: Santa Claus, aka North (voiced by Alec Baldwin, with a Russian accent), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman, proudly retaining his Australian drawl), the head Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the Sandman (who doesn’t speak but communicates through 3-D pictograms he creates with sand) are part of an elite squad.
Instead of merely delighting tots during holidays or when baby teeth fall out, the Guardians, taking directions from the Man in the Moon, actively protect youngsters for all kinds of evil, including Pitch (Jude Law), a malevolent being most of us know as the Boogey Man.
Pitch seeks to turn children’s dreams into nightmares by convincing them that they are myths. He disrupts the conversion of teeth to money and ruins Easter egg hunts around the globe.
The Guardians need help, but they’re not sure the Man in the Moon is serious when he selects Jack Frost (Chris Pine)for the task. Jack loves to decorate windows and create snow days, but responsibility isn’t necessarily his strong suit. The Guardians figure they can recruit him by helping him find out how he got the way he is and why children can’t see or don’t believe in him.
While giving the world nightmares might seem like grim stakes, there really isn’t much sense of urgency in Rise of the Guardians. The filmmakers resist the urge to have North and Pitch duke it out. While it might be reassuring not to have to explain to young siblings why it’s OK if Santa clobbers bad guys but punching your sister is verboten, the substitute for violent showdowns isn’t that involving.
The setup is pretty similar to Marvel’s The Avengers, but what’s missing with this cast of characters is any real sense of rivalry or discord. Part of the fun of that film was waiting to see if the heroes could look past their imposing egos and work together for the common good. Because the characters were suitably vivid and the discord among them convincing, the story had tension and drive.
While there are plenty of delightfully eye-popping sights here (the 3-D is suitably lively),the characters are fairly one note and don’t have much chemistry. It could have been fun to see North and Bunny trade wisecracks, but the interactions are sadly perfunctory. Only Jack seems to be dynamic.
The celebrity voices are a bit of a distraction. Baldwin’s accent gets tiresome, and one wonders why a lesser known actor who actually hails from Eastern Europe wasn’t cast instead. Baldwin doesn’t bring anything special to the role.
The only thing worse than having a life full of nightmares is having one that feels repetitively dull.
Rise of the Guardians 73
With the voices of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo
PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action