One of my least favorite trends at the movies these days has got to be when filmmakers attempt to humanize the mythical characters we’ve grown up believing were nothing more than pure magic. Films like “Arthur Christmas,” “The Santa Clause 3” and “Hop” have all had a hand in this disparaging trend, and it seems like we get at least one every year.
I mention this trend at the outset of my review of the animated “Rise of the Guardians,” partially because its the latest perpetrator and partially because it’s the first movie that has made me second-guess my thoughts. No, I was not a fan of the flying spaceship that Santa flew around in in last year’s “Arthur Christmas.” No, I did not like the creepy Easter Bunny costume they used in the “Santa Clause” movies. And you would think my distaste would extend to any movie that depicted a Santa Claus with “Naughty” and “Nice” tattoos on his forearms and a Slavic accent that’s thicker than Solyanka.
Well, so did I. No matter how bitter I was going in to “Rise of the Guardians” last Saturday morning, about 30 minutes in I decided to let my afflictions go and enjoy the movie for what it is. Fortunately for me, “Rise of the Guardians” wasn’t as bad as I had been anticipating.
“Guardians” is based on a series of books that depict various characters of folklore (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman) doing battle with the forces of evil in an attempt to protect the children of the world. The movie charts the training of a neophyte guardian, Jack Frost, as he struggles to find his place in the group.
All of the characters in “Rise of the Guardians” have been designed with maximum cuteness potential, particularly some quirky elves that were clearly inspired by the minions in “Despicable Me.” The animation is rich with detail, full of bright colors and stunning “camerawork” that looks to have been fully concocted with 3-D in mind (you knew the movie would be in 3-D, didn’t you?). And, although the tone of the movie is relatively grim, there is enough good humor to lighten the mood.
The most amusing aspect of “Rise of the Guardians” may be its similarities to “The Avengers.” Essentially, the movie assembles characters we’ve seen in previous conjunctions to do battle with a Loki-like villain (here, it’s the Boogeyman, who has the suavely villainous voice of Jude Law) with lots of special effects going on in the margins of the frame. Oh, and whoever had the inspired idea to cast Hugh Jackman as the Easter Bunny deserves a big, fat bonus.
It’s tempting to overpraise the film because I was so sure it would be awful, but I am man enough to admit that it is quite a lot of fun. I’d still prefer Santa and the Easter Bunny stay far, far away from throwing knives and martial arts, but at least they’re using them in a movie that is as entertaining as “Rise of the Guardians.”
★★★ (out of ★★★★)
Rated PG for violence. 97 minutes.
Director: Peter Ramsey. Voices: Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman.