Film Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians is a lackluster and forced attempt to turn established characters in our cultural lexicon into a franchise that lacks imagination and never gets off the ground.

All of the characters that filled our childhood are in fact potential Guardians of this re-imagined world and the current roster consists of Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and the Sandman. The Guardians’ goal is to keep the children of the world believing in them against the cynicism and creeping adulthood in the world and they do this by, basically, continuing to carry out their everyday roles and making sure they don’t miss their big holidays. There are apparently other supernatural beings running around the world too, we only meet one of them though, and that is Jack Frost. The world doesn’t believe in Jack Frost though and the children of the world can’t see him. Jack is soon selected as the newest Guardian just when a new, old threat arises in Pitch Black; who is taking on the role of the Boogey Man.

As I wrote out this summary I began to notice some serious logistical flaws in this whole mess. First, why does Jack Frost want to be seen by kids, when they are supposed to be an anonymous force in the world? Also, why is there an inclusive group of hero’s anointed Guardians and everyone else doesn’t get to help out? I could go on with the questions but why waste our time. The world and premise are so desperately convoluted and half-baked, it is another creative dearth that is a part of the modern trend to just poach established characters and put a new spin on them. Guardians is just never able to establish anything all that new or interesting with these characters outside a couple of cool home worlds for both Bunny and Tooth. See, everyone has “clever” names like North, Sandy and Pitch.

Outside the world building never really getting off of the ground, the film’s plot never really does either. We are supposed to be watching an origin story of sorts for Jack Frost, but I never once cared for him or his desire to find out about his past. When we do finally get to that big reveal the scene is very well handled, but I couldn’t have an emotional reaction to it because I had checked out on his story almost entirely.

There is also a story surrounding a human family that is such an obvious plot device that you easily get disengaged when they sporadically show up only when necessary. The story surrounding the humans in general is unappealing and also makes little sense. We are asked to believe that everyone in the world, except one kid (When it actually should be two since his sister physically traveled and interacted with the Guardians in person!), stops believing in the Guardians a bit too easily and then when things begin to turn around in the end, we are expected to believe that the whole world instantaneously believes again even though all of the Guardians are in this small town and none of them are doing their required jobs to make the children of the world believe. Ugh. Plus, the film doesn’t have the balls to follow through with any of the actual chances it takes while erasing the relevance of seemingly major plot points; sometimes moments after they happen. They also don’t show two of the three biggest events that happen over the course of the film, instead saving the set pieces for uninspired flying scenes or other almost just as marginal.

There are a couple of bright spots in this mess. Jude Law and Hugh Jackman both bring a lot of life to Pitch and Bunny respectively, but neither gets a whole lot to do. The concept around Sandy is also inspired, but again they don’t do anything terribly interesting with it. He can literally conjure anything with his sleep dust and they don’t let him create anything very cool. I also enjoyed North’s (Santa) yeti helpers and the creepy interpretation of the elves; even if they are just Minion rip offs from Despicable Me. Alec Baldwin gives a fine and unrecognizable performance as North, but I never really understood the need to make Santa such a over the top Russian biker. Isla Fisher also brings a welcome weird, and kind of creepy, energy to Tooth and I wish we had got a bit more from her as well.

Rise of the Guardians is a mess of a movie that fails to build its world, which is essential to make a film like this work. It doesn’t help that the film’s plot is incredibly compelling either and is full of logic lapses that are inexcusable even in a “children’s film”. Pilfering children’s’ holiday mascots and imaginary heroes comes across as lazy, especially when you fail to put much imagination behind the re-imagining, and it is a shame DreamWorks wasted their gorgeous animated efforts on such a creatively vacant idea.

Rise of the Guardians is an F

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