Tis the season for family-friendly animated films like Dreamwork’s “Rise of the Guardian,” which is why I brought my 4-year-old niece along for the sleigh ride. Criticizing children’s films can be quite difficult so that’s why it’s best to pester your son, daughter, niece or nephew for their thoughts. My niece may not have endured years of film studies classes, but she definitely knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. And while she spent most of our time together taunting me with her chocolate chip cookie, I got the sense that she wasn’t a fan of “Rise of the Guardians,” or at least it didn’t spark the same degree of enthusiasm that films like “Brave” and “Princess and the Frog” do. I don’t blame her, because the film is boring and formulaic.
When Pitch (Jude Law) threatens the children of the world, the four guardians, including Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter bunny (Hugh Jackman), the tooth fairy (Isla Fisher) and the sandman, must rise up to stop him. However, the moon appoints one last guardian: Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who can’t remember his life before becoming Frost. Unlike the other guardians, Jack can’t make himself seen by children so they never fully believe that he exists.
Law and Baldwin’s voices match their character’s personas nicely. Law’s satiny British tongue complements his role as the villain, while Baldwin’s interpretation of Santa as a Russian tough guy is entertaining. My niece’s favorite character is Tooth, but I think that’s because she’s the closest to a fairytale princess. None of the voice actors do much to make their characters any more than two-dimensional, but the script is mostly to blame for that.
The film’s animation is bright, colorful and at times, imaginative. While I’m not a proponent of 3D animation, it works here, especially when the sandman takes center stage. I also enjoyed Santa and Tooth’s worlds, which are reimagined to breathe new life into their fairytales. Still, the dreamy backdrops can’t compensate for the lackluster story.
In addition to being about Pitch’s evil plan to rid the children’s belief in the guardians, “Rise of the Guardians” is also about Jack’s quest to find his past identity. These two plots tie in easily enough, but neither of them are particularly interesting. I’ve lost track of how many children’s movies I have seen that stress the importance of child-like wonder and belief in the unknown. Is there not another childhood lesson that adults want to teach their kids? The climax is also something I’ve seen countless times before and doesn’t add anything new to the genre.
“Rise of the Guardians” is a fine movie to take your kids to see this season, but it is not destined to become a holiday classic.