The latest animation epic to come from Dreamworks pictures, and one of the very few kids movies, with anything resembling a Christmas theme, to show this holiday season is Rise of the Gaurdians. Loosly based on the combined worlds of William Joyce’s books in ‘The Gaurdians of Childhood’ and the short film ‘The Man in the Moon.’ The story follows the antics of Jack Frost (voice by Christ Pine aka the new Cap’t Kirk) as he is enlisted to join the elite group of folklore characters that Gaurd the children of the earth…well at least those who belive in them, the rest are left to fend for themselves, its something is a self preservation thing rather than a noble defence of childlike innocence. The big four are none other than Santa Clause (voiced by Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Sandman who is without voice but probably has the greatest about of gumption of the lot. The Boogieman (Jude Law), who is given a more modern namesake of ‘Pitch Black’ then shortened to ‘Pitch’, just to clarify in case you begin to thing the antagonist here has a thing for baseball or building arcs, has returned to strike hopelessness and nightmares among the children of earth in order the break belief in the ‘Big Four’ and somehow transfer this belief to himself thus making himself manifest to rule the world of children’s imaginations for ever and ever untill they all go see phycitricsts and/or grow up.
I was a little cautious walking into this film knowing that one of the big publicity stunts surrounding this feature was the release of Reel FX, which is a open source piece of software the Dreamsworks developed in order to make all of the particle effects in the movies, mainly everything that Pitch and Sandman do with (wait for it) Sand! Which In all fairness look absolutely phenomenal, but as I said, i was cautious as I’ve seen this stunt before and a movie can offen suffer as its goes to extremes to show off its shiny new package and like a disco dancer wearing extraordinarly tight hot pants, you might not mind the dancing but you just didn’t need that much information. And while, in some regards my fears were being realized, its was never overly distracting…that being said I didn’t watch this film in 3D so that might prove a different story.
Plot wise the film has fairly good pace, there is always something big happening and my kids never lost interest, and for the most part niether did I. The characters are comical but largley lacking in depth, Santa is the only one given any real time to expand his character so, for me he comes the driving force for most of the film, I also found Baldwin’s Russian take on St Nick to be rather hilarious and heartwarming in some instances. Frost’s story is one of self discovery and becomes his driving purpose to find out about his past, and mentioning anything of it would be pressing into spoiler territory, but suffice to say while the details may ellude you, the quest to undertand what Jack’s center is resides somewhere in your first guess. But all this ofcourse should be tempered with the fact that this is a kids films and thus one should not expect massive depth in character development and plot, but also on the flip side, with recent Dreamworks releases including works like How to Train your Dragon and the Kung Fu Pandas its also reasonable to expect a high standard in these areas.
So should you see this movie? With the lack of much of anything kid friendly showing up this year then if you have kids then Yes, it’s a good fun family film that will be enjoyed by all that you get to tag along, there’s nothing really scary for the younger kids and plenty of verbal combat between the characters to entertain the adults. But if your expecting the high quality of solid filmmaking that Dreamworks has been demonstrating of late, then this is probably one of the weakest in thier line up, not to say the film is bad, there’s no need to avoid it or shoot it down or anything akin to that, its just lacking that heart that Dreamworks has been using to give thier films that spark of life.