Rise Of The Guardians

Rise Of The Guardians

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

No Christmas is complete without a Christmas movie. As the number of possible new Christmas themed stories dwindles, connections grow more tenuous. This year we have a film with no direct link to the winter festivities, but we do get Alec Baldwin as a muscular Father Christmas (with 'naughty' and 'nice' tattooed on his arms), one of several heroes charged with protecting the children of the world.

The set-up is formulaic, to say the least. This group of heroes is called into action when the world is threatened by the Bogeyman (Jude Law), a standard snivelling, effete villain who wants everyone to live in fear and darkness because, well, that's what he does. Unable to fight him alone, the team - which also includes the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and the Easter Bunny (the only one who doesn't share his name with a horror movie villain) - must recruit a new ally. The mysterious Man in the Moon, whose Thunderbird 5 potential sadly goes unrecognised, tells them this should be the nimble trickster Jack Frost. But Jack doesn't see himself as a hero. He's just a lonely boy who struggles to believe in himself because nobody else believes in him. Can he rise to the challenge?

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This is a film whose plot contains more holes than any of its heroes' warrens or magic portals, but it's far from the worst such festive fantasy fare, and after a weak start it picks up the pace. Thee's some dazzling animation work, even it does tend to repeat its best tricks too often, and young children will love the bright, magical worlds it carries us through. Where films like this often struggle to get the balance right when it comes to scaring younger viewers this is, if anything, a bit too light on the fear factor, given its theme, but at least it means parents won't have to sit up at night talking it over. It's stronger when it comes to the subject of loneliness, with Chris Pine bringing depth to a thinly written Jack, though he really sounds too old for the part.

Balancing out the sugar in which the whole thing is smothered is a vein of irreverent humour. Hugh Jackman's Easter Bunny is by far the most entertaining of Jack's allies. Quite why he's Australian is never explained, but the boomerangs are a nice touch and the Crocodile Dundee jokes smoothly integrated into the whole. There's also very dark humour surrounding the incidental cruelty with which Father Christmas' tiny pointy-hatted minions are treated, being frozen, electrocuted or knocked off things in passing.

There is absoluely nothing in this film that is not predictable, even for young viewers, and they too may become tired of the story glossing over its intrinsic weaknesses - if our heroes depend on children believing in them why don't they let themselves be seen more often? Still, the film's prettiness and energy mostly suffice to carry it through the rough patches. As Christmas entertainment goes, you could do a lot worse.

Reviewed on: 05 Dec 2012
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When the happiness of children is under threat, an unlikely new hero emerges to help Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy save the day.
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Director: Peter Ramsey

Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the book by William Joyce.

Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law, Dakota Goyo

Year: 2012

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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