Adapted by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire from a series of books by Academy Award-winner William Joyce and directed by first-timer Peter Ramsey, a storyboard artist with Spielberg and Fincher triumphs on his résumé, Rise of the Guardians asks too much of audiences. It wants us to buy the Easter Bunny as hopped-up on EPO or worse, the Sandman as a wee, inexplicably silent Bobby Moynihan, Santa Claus as a tattooed Rasputin, the Tooth Fairy as a Mardi Gras parade float, and Jack Frost as Zac Efron-esque jailbait that could bring down teams Edward and Jacob with a single swoosh of his chill-inducing staff. Why Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, is invisible to the kids of the world, unlike Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Sandman, North (Alec Baldwin), and Tooth (Isla Fisher), and how that invisibility is inextricably bound to his obliviousness to this own origin story strains for reason, but so does the idea of a bunny hiding eggs in the world’s nooks and crannies and little fairies housing our baby teeth in safe-deposit boxes that transmit back to us our memories of youth. Much of this beautiful-looking if scarcely revolutionary entertainment’s details, from the Man in the Moon’s exact stake in the role of these guardians’ roles in the daily lives of children the world over to the evil Pitch Black’s sudden obsession with shrouding the world in darkness, are either fuzzy or largely arbitrary, but this spirited enough yarn is sincere and heartening in its belief that our devotion to these youthful myths is healthy for our sense of wonderment to overcome the innocuous autopilot of the story’s momentum. And as it’s mercifully free of the Shrek franchise’s rabid and smug deployment of in-jokes and pop-culture references, defaulting always to visual dazzlement, most notably the handsomely rendered dance between the Sandman’s ribbons of dream dust and Pitch Black’s ominous streaks of darkness, Rise of the Guardians is at least preferable to stocking coal.
- Paramount Pictures
- 97 min
- Peter Ramsey
- David Lindsay-Abaire
- Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Khamani Griffin, Kamil McFadden
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