Review: Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians
Voices: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher

Director: Peter Ramsey

Indian Express rating: **

IT'S that time of the year again when, as children tell us they believe in Santa, we sincerely hope they aren't saying it just so the adults can sleep easy. However, Rise of the Guardians by DreamWorks Animation doesn't just hope that the children of the world still retain wonder, hope, faith, belief -- plus any other words you may want to throw in -- it goes out to underline it in every twist, turn, slide, slip and slight lifts of this 3D animation.

With hardly a conversation where these words don't pop up, one wonders whom Rise of the Guardians is targeted at? The kids who shouldn't need so much convincing, if the film is essentially about unvarnished belief, or the parents who desperately need to be in the light of all they see to the contrary?

The fact that it is essentially one of the guardians who has his faith tested and restored, and not an ordinary child, makes that message even more incoherent and distant. That is a surprise because DreamWorks Animation mostly has its kid priorities down pat.

We begin with Jack Frost (Pine), who one day realises that thanks to "the man in the moon", he suddenly carries a staff with the ability to create frost or snow at will. With no recollection of his past, the teenage boy wonders why he came to have that staff, but only gets a hint 300 years later when he is summoned to the North Pole by "North" (Santa Claus with an inexplicable accent and distinct tattoos voiced by Baldwin). He is told he has been anointed one of the "guardians" of the world, an Avenger-style gang that includes the Santa, Tooth Fairy (Fisher), Easter Bunny (Jackman, in over-the-top Australian accent) and Sandman (who creates dreams, silently, salubriously and shiningly).

Jack protests at being co-opted in this "workhorse" group with the task of keeping the world's children happy. He is more content having "fun", which basically involves snowball fighting with children.

A trip through Santa's wonderful toy factory goes a long way towards changing Jack's mind. What brings on the change faster is the arrival of Pitch Black (Law), the bearer of "fear" and "nightmare" who insists his time has come, takes on the "guardians" and goes about destroying the Tooth Fairy myth as his first mission.

The "guardians" are suitably horrified. This "end of the world" scenario comes with much hand-wringing, soul-searching and a lot of fighting as Pitch pits his Harry Potteresque dementors against the guardians' unquestioning goodness. The animation is excellent, especially how frost springs from the end of Jack's staff and forms the famed fern-like patterns on objects.

The film does broach on the loneliness of characters like Jack, who longs to be seen or touched by another being, but also Pitch, who has gone through life being feared and banished and has now decided to make it his life's ambition. But broach is all it does.

Eyeing the Christmas/New Year good cheer market, Rise of the Guardians is determined to not let a shadow of doubt rest on the brows of those watching. It's the greatest disservice perhaps to its intended market that it doesn't believe they are capable of making their own minds, or finding beliefs that would withstand the harsh light of growing up.

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