Rise Of The Guardians (2012)

Untitled-1I grew up believing in the tooth fairy, and in Santa Claus, and in the sandman. I actually used to put my teeth under my pillow and wake up the next morning to find two dollar notes. I used to believe that the sandman really sprinkled sand in my eyes to make me fall asleep (there would be proof the next morning!). And I definitely believed that Santa brought me gifts made by his elves. I even used to write letters to him (which my mum kept hidden of course) and eagerly awaited Christmas morning where there’d be a big present under the tree. Life was much simpler then.

Rise Of The Guardians makes it all so complicated. In trying to reinforce every kid’s childhood beliefs, the movie ends up killing the magic of it all. Santa’s toys are no longer made by elves; they’re made by abominable snowmen (the elves are more like servants and dimwitted laughing cards). Jack Frost looks like a teenage heartthrob straight out of a Japanese manga book. And kids can actually see and touch all these fabled heroes! What happened to the exciting mystery surrounding Santa and Christmas, or the surprise to find that your tooth had been exchanged for money? By physically seeing, we’re no longer compelled to have faith.

It’s also unfortunate that the movie centres its plot around Jack Frost (Chris Pine), most probably the least interesting character in the world. What can he do? He can manipulate snow and ice, and give kids a great time on a sled. That’s about it. And I was actually half expecting him to speak Japanese. Nevertheless, he’s been recently chosen by the “man on the moon” to become a guardian. Guardians protect children and keep their childhood happy. The only problem is, Jack doesn’t know why he’s been chosen, and he can’t remember anything about his life before it. And so when every single child in the world is under attack from the boogeyman (an elegantly sinister being named Pitch, voiced by Jude Law), Jack must fight alongside the other guardians (Santa, the sandman, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny) in order to stop him while trying to discover the truth about his own past. It’s not a very fresh concept.

What is fresh is the movie’s premise. Forget about the boogeyman and how he wants to terrorize the world. Focus instead on how brilliant it is to see the guardians at work, how they do what they do to keep the children safe, sound, and peaceful. Focus on the detail of each of their base camps. And focus on how they are all more or less interconnected with each other. The idea of this movie is great; it’s intriguing, colourful, well designed, and it tugs at the heart strings of our youth. It also has a few funny moments, a few not-so-funny moments, and moments that just need to be explained. Why the man on the moon? Why does Pitch’s nightmare take the form of a Ringwraith’s horse? Why does Jack look the way he does? Why does Santa have a Russian accent? Why does the sandman have a mouth if he can’t speak? Why does the Easter bunny have an Australian accent? And it goes on…

Maybe if the guardians remained invisible and intangible to children–and simply went about their business in secret–the wonder of what they do would be stronger. By letting them interact with the kids, everything became a mass of sentimental goo.

Best Moment | I thought the Cupcake character was quite entertaining, especially in the beginning where she’s about to attack the kids, and then she gets hit with a special Jack Frost snowball and is then immediately shown chasing after them like a deranged serial killer.

Worst Moment | The last bit with all the kids standing up to Pitch. Come on, you have to admit that that was a bit ridiculous. “I believe in you. I’m just not afraid of you!”

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