February 7, 2023
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Fantastical action delights in ‘Rise of the Guardians’

The holiday season has arrived, and with it comes Hollywood holiday films such as “Rise of the Guardians.” But before Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny can spread joy to the world, they first have to save it. Fun action and a colorful cast make this an entertaining holiday spin off of “The Avengers.”

“Rise of the Guardians” tells the story of Jack Frost (Chris Pine), the spirit of winter. Jack is a playful trickster who spreads joy by creating snow days for school kids and starting snowball fights. Unfortunately, none of the children can see him, making Frost yearn to take full part in their activities. Though he cannot play with them, he finds he has a chance to protect them. North (Alec Baldwin), the Santa Claus character, Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Isla Fisher) and the voiceless Sandman recruit Frost to stand against Pitch (Jude Law), the proverbial Boogeyman of legend who threatens to extinguish the happiness of children by twisting their dreams into nightmares.

This film’s PG action is its strongest selling point. The scenes pan out just like a child’s playtime. Characters fly wildly about on rocket sleighs and a biplane made of dream sand or the winter winds. Frost also wields a staff that allows him to slide across ice like a speed-skater or create elaborate ice projectiles. The animation is especially strong when Frost clashes with Pitch. Crystalline shards of ice mix with the dark grains of nightmare sand forming explosions of twisted black and blue shapes. North adopts the combat style of a saber-wielding Cossack, while Bunny acts as a rugged Australian outdoorsman with his boomerangs. A final battle set in North’s workshop involves animated toys, Yetis, pixie-like miniature tooth fairies and dinosaurs made from dreams. It doesn’t matter if these components feel random, the fight scenes don’t hold back with their carefree attitude and childish elements.

The voice cast of the holiday superheroes performs fairly. Pine can come off as bland at times, but his natural tone fits well with the confident maverick Frost. Baldwin is unrecognizable behind the thick Russian accent he gives to North, but it’s consistent and incorporates the jolly recklessness of the character with his lines. Jackman and Fisher also fit their characters’ types well, Jackman coming off as rugged and hard-nosed about his job, while Fisher maintains a sweet innocence. Ironically, the mute Sandman can be the most expressive character. With no lines to say, he communicates through facial expressions and icons he forms above his head with sand, like in a comic. His silent form of communication makes him all the more recognizable when he does have something to say, giving him a stronger persona.

The storylines behind “Rise of the Guardians” develop in a loose and scattered fashion, especially in the beginning. The film includes plot devices involving the Man on the Moon, teeth as a source of memories and a rivalry between Frost and Bunny. When Frost is chosen by the Man on the Moon to help the Guardians, it feels like a quick fix to get the story moving. These elements that serve as scaffolding to construct the world are often insubstantial and pushed into the background when the playful fight scenes occur.

While the first part of the story may feel haphazardly constructed, it consolidates into a stronger focus centered around Frost’s journey. Perhaps with the exception of Bunny, Frost undergoes the most character development. His loneliness, loss of memory and quest for purpose all cumulate into a substantial identity crisis. This crisis intensifies further with Pitch adopting the devil archetype and tempting Frost, trying to convince him that they are alike and should abandon the Guardians.

“Rise of the Guardians” may feel disjointed at first with its feeble story arcs, but once the playful action kicks up and the story settles around Frost, it becomes a more entertaining family film.

Overall rating: 2 ½ stars

“Rise of the Guardians” may feel disjointed at first with its feeble story arcs, but once the playful action kicks up and the story settles around Frost, it becomes a more entertaining family film.