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Film review: RISE OF THE GUARDIANS from Built For Speed

Despite the similar name, the 3D animated fantasy Rise of the Guardians has nothing to do with the film from a couple of years ago Legend of the Guardians: the owls of Ga’hooleRise is based on the Guardians of Childhood novels by William Joyce rather than the Ga’hoole stories by Kathryn Lansky.

Like Shrek and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Rise of the Guardians is yet another fantasy meta-movie which unites a number of imaginary characters in the one story.  This time it’s Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy and other characters we associate with major holidays and times when we score presents or cash.  They form a kind of super hero collective known as the Guardians whose somewhat self-serving mission is to defend the children of the Earth from the malevolent boogieman Pitch (Jude Law) who wants to destroy children’s belief in supernatural characters like them.  The newcomer to the Guardians is Jack Frost a spiky-haired teen who looks a little like Justin Bieber and has the ability to turn anything he touches to ice.  Frost is suffering an existential crisis due to haunting memories of a former life and his current low brand awareness among the world’s children.

With its astonishing clarity and detail, Rise of the Guardians continues the trend of stunning looking animated films.  The animation technology has also improved to the point where character movement looks realistic and not the Jerky, Ja Ja Binks-like motion we’ve seen for years.

The story, however, is a little too convoluted and potentially dull for the intended child audience.  During the screening you could occasionally detect the kids becoming bored.  Fortunately, the film jars the kids back to life with loud, violent and stunningly realistic action scenes.  A few of these swirling action sequences, though, are too busy and a little confusing.

An aspect of this film that may divide audiences is the liberty taken with these classic fairy-tale characters.  Santa isn’t the jolly old man in the red suit with which we’re familiar, he’s an enormous tattooed, sword-wielding Cossack who runs a sweat shop bizarrely staffed by Yetis.  The Easter Bunny isn’t a cute rabbit in a waistcoat here, he’s a big grumpy Aussie bogan monster rabbit who’s closer to the creature from Donnie Darko than the original Easter Bunny.  Despite the weird variations on these fantasy figures, the stars voicing these characters do a fine job with Alec Baldwin making Santa enjoyably boisterous and Hugh Jackman turning the Easter Bunny into an amusingly cynical misfit.  Isla Fisher is also typically charming as the voice of the Tooth Fairy.  Chris Pine (Captain Kirk from the Star Trek reboot, not the Liberal Party parliamentarian) sounds a little too old, though, as the voice of the adolescent looking Jack Frost.

With its messy story the film as a whole doesn’t grip the audience the way it should but along the way there are some remarkable sequences that are both exciting and even moving.

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Peter Ramsey

Release date: 13th Dec 2012

Running time: 97 mins.

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