June 12: #12, Rise of the Guardians
I pledge not to use the words "magic", "innocence", or "belief" in this review.
I feel like Rise of the Guardians is a generic enough title that it could be for a movie about anything: hobbitses protecting a ring, a documentary about video game console fanboys coming to the defense of their system of choice, or in this case, creepy versions of all the myths we teach children about coming forth to fight the boogeyman.
Well, not all of the "Guardians" are creepy. Santa Claus just kinda looks like a biker. He's got tattoos on his forearms- one says "Naughty" and one says "Nice". Oh, and he's Russian and has eyebrows like Heihachi from the Tekken games.
The Easter Bunny, though? He looks creepy as hell. Not just because he's Australian, either. I guess there's no way to make a 6'1" bunny that walks on his hind legs without the whole thing setting off someone's creepometer, but still. You've gotta try.
Surprisingly, they do a good job of making the Tooth Fairy, a woman who collects the teeth of children obsessively, into a somewhat normal character. Sure, they come up with the dumbest excuse ever for why she keeps childrens' teeth to do so (they store your memories), but whateves. The Sandman is tiny and mute, but nobody gives a crap about him.
Apparently, the Man on the Moon chooses Guardians, which yes, is pretty dumb. Work with me here. Some of the other changes, mostly made for comedic effect, are pretty amusing- yetis make all of the toys for Santa, and the elves are completely incompetent. There's a natural rivalry between Santa and the Easter Bunny that is hit-and-miss, but often results in moments worth a chuckle.
Then there's Jack Frost, our protagonist. He doesn't want to be a Guardian: "You're all hard work and deadlines and I'm all snowballs and fun times." Jack Frost works as pretty much an representation of the irresponsible teenager who just wants to have fun and not accept responsibilities. Unfortunately, he's the key to defeating the boogeyman (actually, "Pitch Black" for what I assume are copyright reasons?), so the group has to convince him to help them do so, and away we go.
My brother, Chris, saw it with his wife and kids in 3D and enjoyed it, and I can see why. There are some great set pieces, including a ride on Santa's sleigh that I'll bet was amazing in 3D. There are some battles that work really well, to the point where the film almost seems like The Avengers, with Santa and friends standing in for the Marvel superheroes.
The animation is exceptional during the flashier scenes, but when things slow down, I'm just not a big fan of the style itself or many of the character designs. The designs kind of remind me of the style of the Shrek films, which I don't really like, and to me are a little bit "uncanny valley" instead of endearing in the way that Pixar's art is. Still, this is a likable enough film with good pacing and enough original ideas to go along with the borrowed mythology, and hey, the kids liked it. Grade: B-