Rise of the Guardians


Chris Pine as Jack Frost (voice)
Alec Baldwin as North (voice)
Jude Law as Pitch (voice)
Isla Fisher as Tooth (voice)
Hugh Jackman as Bunny (voice)
Dakota Goyo as Jamie Bennett (voice)
Khamani Griffin as Caleb (voice)
Kamil McFadden as Claude (voice)
Georgie Grieve as Sophie Bennett (voice)
Emily Nordwind as Jamie’s Mom / Jack’s Mother (voice)
Jacob Bertrand as Monty (voice)
Olivia Mattingly as Pippa / Jack’s Sister (voice)
Dominique Grund as Cupcake (voice)

Directed by Peter Ramsey

If you like superhero movies and holiday legends, then you’ll find “Rise of the Guardians” to be a pleasant surprise. A solid script, excellent cast, and impressive 3D animation make this a movie that both adults and kids will enjoy. It is arguably the best animated movie of 2012.

This film is based on the book by William Joyce.

At the North Pole, Santa (aka North) is busily preparing for Christmas when he detects a horrible new menace – the Boogeyman (aka Pitch Black). Concerned about his plans, North assembles the other Guardians, including the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. But when their guiding spirit, the Man in the Moon, assembles them, he tells them that they need a new Guardian added to the team and guides them to Jack Frost.

Jack is a relatively new spirit with no memory of his past and no direction in life. Invisible to humans, Jack has entertained himself for the last 300 years by creating winter related mischief, snow days for kids, and the occasional snowball fight. So when the other Guardians attempt to recruit him as a Guardian to fight Pitch, he’s wary of joining the team. But little does he know that they hold the key to him unlocking his past and true purpose.

“Rise of the Guardians” is rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action.

What Worked:
“Rise of the Guardians” was a real pleasant surprise. Honestly, it wasn’t on my radar at all and none of the commercials or trailers caught my interest. So you can imagine my surprise when the first 5 minutes of this movie had me hooked. I was even more surprised that, by the end, this ended up being arguably the best animated film of 2012.

“Rise of the Guardians” is essentially “The Avengers” of holiday movies. Each of the holiday characters are treated like superheroes that are assembled together into a team to fight an evil menace. This is also the superhero origin story of Jack Frost. In fact, Jack Frost’s story parallels Wolverine’s in the first “X-Men” movie (which is ironic considering Hugh Jackman plays Bunny here). A loner with no memory of his past gets brought into a team of heroes and must find his place in his newfound family. The plots, at their core, are almost identical, but that’s a good thing. It works amid the holiday setting.

Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny have been portrayed in numerous different ways in many different movies. So it’s pretty impressive that “Rise of the Guardians” can find a new take on all of them. Santa, voiced by Alec Baldwin, is a giant Russian man with tattoos on his forearms. His shop is manned by Yeti (who look a heck of a lot like Chewbacca) and Elves (who resemble the Minions from “Despicable Me” in almost every way). This is, quite possibly, the manliest depiction of Santa ever. Meanwhile, the Tooth Fairy, voiced by Isla Fisher, is depicted as a humming bird with a huge entourage of smaller humming bird fairies doing the actual tooth collection. I guarantee that if you see a hummingbird after watching this movie, you’ll think of the Tooth Fairy. Then the Easter Bunny is a tough Aussie bloke voiced by Hugh Jackman. His home base is the least interesting of the batch, but it’s still fun to see him in action. Then you have the main star of the film, Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine. He’s a heck of a lot like his Captain Kirk character from “Star Trek,” so it’s easy to see why they cast him. He’s charming, roguish, and a free spirit. He’s a likable leading character.

The 3D animation in this film is stunning. You see individual snowflakes fly out of the screen in incredible detail. A couple of times when Jack Frost threw snowballs out of the screen, I actually flinched. And when he flies through the town, the 3D is used to its full effect. Also impressive are all of the iridescent feathers on the tooth fairies, the individual sparkling grains of sand from the Sandman, and the incredibly detailed flakes of frost generated by Jack Frost. Overall this is some of the best use of 3D in all of 2012.

I had never heard of director Peter Ramsey, but I see he has a long career as a storyboard artist and a second unit director. He did such a good job guiding this project that I hope we see more work from him in the future. He certainly beat Pixar at their own game with “Rise of the Guardians.”

What Didn’t Work:
I think if I had to point out anything that wasn’t working on this movie, it would be the marketing. None of the commercials, trailers, or anything else hinted at the strong film behind it. Since this is one of the few holiday movies coming out over Thanksgiving, I hope it gets good word of mouth from families that go check it out.

One amusing side note – every time Alec Baldwin said “Pitch” with a Russian accent, it sounded like ‘bitch.’ Practically every time he said it, I thought, “What did he say?? I thought this was a family film!” Then I realized he was referring to Pitch Black aka the Boogeyman by his first name. I’m surprised they didn’t catch that in the recording sessions… or maybe they did and left it.

The Bottom Line:
This is a strong film that the whole family can enjoy. I took my 13-year-old daughter, 10-year-old son, and 7-year-old son to this screening and everybody really enjoyed it. If you need to take the family to a movie over the Thanksgiving holiday, you can’t go wrong with “Rise of the Guardians.” And I do recommend seeing it in 3D. This is a case where it’s worth the extra price.