Just in time for the holiday season comes DreamWorks Animation’s second feature of the year, Rise of the Guardians. Based on the series of books by William Joyce, this story of childhood heroes uniting to stop a common threat often feels like the child version of the Avengers, and it will doubtless entertain many a young audience as Christmas approaches. However, although it makes for fun viewing, Guardians is ultimately bettered by many of its contemporaries.
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Guardians follows Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a reckless ‘legend’ who is invisible to everyone around him as no one believes in him. When old enemy Pitch Black (Jude Law) re-emerges, the guardians – who comprise of Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fischer) and Sandman – recruit Frost to help thwart Pitch before he turns all the children into unbelievers and makes their dreams become nightmares.
In an era where animated movies often offer a thought provoking message for post-adolescents in addition to animated fun – see Pixar’s Brave or Up – Guardians’ over-arching plot about the power of belief comes across as a little thin. It doesn’t help that the moral of the story is delivered in very heavy-handed fashion at times, which needlessly threatens to ruin what should be heartfelt moments. Additionally, the predictable Jack Frost storyline – the hero is on a quest to find out what happened to him in his previous life – becomes less and less interesting as the film continues.
Even though the message leaves much to be desired, Guardians succeeds thanks to its entertaining characterisation and the outstanding voice cast. Baldwin is great fun as the sword wielding Santa, complete with naughty and nice tattoos. His banter with Jackman’s Easter Bunny is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and recurring gags from fringe players such as the elves and Yeti’s never outstay their welcome.
The 3D augmented visuals are also worth the extra price of admission. Guardians’ story is well thought out in that we get to spend a considerable amount of time in each heroes’ playground without it feeling contrived, and all the different worlds look impressive. The chase sequences are brilliantly done, but it’s the animation of Sandman that is particularly noteworthy. The character never speaks, but his colourful aesthetics have the required effect.
“Any Last Words?” Excellent visuals coupled with entertaining characters mean that there is something for everyone to enjoy in Rise of the Guardians. It’s just a shame it’s not accompanied by a stronger message.
Rise of the Guardians hits UK cinemas on November 30. Watch the trailer below.