Directed by Peter Ramsey Starring Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Paul Bettany, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher
Christmas Film Review by Chris Olson
As interpretations go, Peter Ramsey's version of childhood's most iconic characters (based on a screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire and a book by William Joyce) is pretty daring in Rise of the Guardians. A tattooed Santa (Alec Baldwin), an aggressive Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), a mute Sandman, a wondrously colourful Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and an emo Jack Frost (Chris Pine), all make up the bulk of the heroes of the Christmas film, whilst Paul Bettany's spooky Bogeyman is reminiscent of a Tim Burton style gothic creation. The plot, now bear with me, sees our Guardian heroes team up when they face extinction should the Bogeyman's plan to destroy all children's belief in the nicer mythical characters succeed. Sensing the need for additional fantasy muscle, Santa and crew enlist the moody and disenfranchised Jack Frost, who is struggling to piece together how he became who he is and why. It's better than it sounds. The first thing worth noting is that Rise of the Guardians has Guillermo del Toro as an executive producer, lending some gravitas to the proceedings and characters. Also, the script is witty and well-timed - a must have for any animated endeavour, with enough adult jokes blended with the more obvious comedy. There are plenty of jokes for all audiences without pulling any punches, though, I particularly enjoyed the silent comedy of Sandman, such as when he pounds his fist when Bunny tells him to knock out a small child (apparently Bunny meant with sleep dust).
Animation is a particularly strong genre when it comes to Christmas films. Reviews are often praising the works of such outings as Arthur Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas (yes it is a Christmas film), and of course an absolute classic like The Snowman. Rise of the Guardians has more in common with the former of the three, offering up a steady pace of humorous lines mixed in with a breakneck pace to the story and marvellously crafted characters that are strongholds of the festive season. The animation itself is wistful on an impressive scale. Colour and vibrancy find a stage alongside the daunting menace of villain, allowing a balanced contrast that never allows the film to feel saccharine. Whilst the production itself is efficient, there was no wow-factor that some animated Christmas films have, such as the aforementioned.
Having been slightly overlooked during the film’s original release, Rise of the Guardians deserves a place among movie fans’ top picks for Christmas films, due in part to its eccentric characterisation and genuinely funny script, but also for its overtly touching messages about the power of goodness and believing in the best of people even when times seem to be at their worst.