|Do you believe in Santa Claus?
(Photo courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures)
For children, there should only be one answer to that question – and the Guardians want to keep it that way.
What if mythical characters that have fueled childhood imaginations for centuries were real, and they’ve been working together closely to protect the innocence and dreams of those who believed in them?
That’s the premise of “Rise of the Guardians,” in which Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman comprise an international league of unique superheroes, the Guardians, sworn under the ancient, mysterious gaze of the moon to keep the lights of hope, optimism and belief glowing in kids around the world.
When an evil force, the Boogyman (Jude Law), rises from the shadows and begins turning children’s peaceful, glowing dreams into dark, galloping nightmares, the Guardians must bring aboard a new member, Jack Frost, and scramble like never before to prevent a childhood apocalypse.
The fanciful computer-animated movie is based on a series of children’s books by William Joyce, who got the idea for the Guardians storyline from his young daughter, who asked him a simple question: “Has Santa Claus ever met the Easter Bunny?” (Joyce’s daughter, Mary Katherine, died of a brain tumor before the movie was completed, and film’s end credits include a dedication to her.)
The Guardians aren’t your standard superheroes, and they certainly aren’t your typical storybook characters. Santa Claus, or “North” (voiced by Alec Baldwin), the hulking Slavic commander of the group, oversees his polar command center with “naughty” tattooed on one massive, muscular forearm and “nice” on the other.
The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) is a surly Australian speedster who navigates the globe in a warren of subterranean tunnels – and who absolutely hates, hates, hates being mistaken for a kangaroo.
The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) oversees a legion of hummingbird-like helpers in the procuring every “lost” tooth of every kid in the world, replacing it with a coin or goodie of some sort, and lovingly cataloging it away, along with the memories it holds, for safekeeping.
The Sandman, who doesn’t speak, is responsible for spinning gorgeous, cotton-candy-like dreams from his golden cloud in the nighttime sky and sending them whirling over the noggins of sleeping children everywhere.
But the core of the story, and its heart, is found in Jack Frost (Chris Pine), the mischievous teenage sprite of winter, who’s fundamentally different from the rest of the Guardians in a heart-wrenching way he spends most of the movie trying to discover – and overcome.
This film is a rich, wondrously woven tale, with children’s characters, and it’s obviously marketed toward to youngsters. But, its story is sometimes moody, dark and scary, and very young viewers might be frightened by the very things in the movie that the Guardians work so hard to keep children from being frightened of.
But don’t let that keep you and your kids away, especially if you’ve got children old enough to appreciate a unique fantasy tale featuring some familiar characters with a spunky, edgy new twist.
The animation is luscious and often spectacular, the storytelling spellbinding and several notches above standard kids’ cinema fare, and the message one that will touch the hearts of anyone – of any age – who can reconnect with the magical childlike power of believing.