'Rise of the Guardians' forgets to raise laughs

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceNovember 20, 2012 

Film-Rise of the Guardians

This composite released by DreamWorks Animation shows the character Sandman from the "Rise of the Guardians," a 3-D computer-generated fantasy tale based on William Joyce's book series, "The Guardians of Childhood."


  • Rise of the Guardians D Cast: The voices of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law Director: Peter Ramsey Website: Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes Rating: PG (thematic elements and some mildly scary action) Theaters “Rise of the Guardians”: Cary, Crossroads; Raleigh, Brier Creek, Grande, North Hills, Six Forks; Chapel Hill, Lumina, Timberlyne; Durham, Southpoint, Wynnsong; Garner, White Oak; Smithfield 10; “Rise of the Guardians 3D”: Cary, Crossroads; Raleigh, Brier Creek, North Hills; Chapel Hill, Timberlyne; Durham, Southpoint, Wynnsong; Garner, White Oak; Smithfield 10

DreamWorks Animation President Jeffrey Katzenberg recently lamented the dearth of new holiday-themed movies this year. But in foisting “Rise of the Guardians” upon unsuspecting audiences for the holidays, it’s clear he just wanted some cover. Other holiday films would take some of the pressure off this joyless, soul-dead piffle.

“Guardians” is the worst animated movie to ever wear the DreamWorks logo.

It’s based on William Joyce’s “The Guardians of Childhood” books, about a team that includes the Easter Bunny, given an Aussie accent by Hugh Jackman here; “North,” aka Santa, made all Slavic and silly by Alec Baldwin; the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the silent, roly-poly Sandman.

They need the help of newcomer Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to stop “Pitch,” short for “Pitch Black,” the night-terror voiced by Jude Law. He’s seeing to it that kids across the world are giving up their belief in magic and magical figures like themselves. And he’s giving them night terrors.

All the Guardians have their public face, and their commando side. When action is called for, they team up to save childhood. Is Jack Frost worthy of their ranks? He’s an imp, a rogue, more into mischief than making the world safe for dreaming. He freezes this and that and makes with the mayhem. Kids, who can’t see him – only his handiwork – don’t mind.

North sees the threat that Pitch’s “touch of fear” carries, and summons his unruly troops.

“Now, ve get down to tacks of brass,” he says, in silly Slavic. It’s amusing the way this guy swears, using Russian composers’ names as profanity – “Shostakovich! “Rimsky-Korsakov!“

It’s a confused ramble across some of the same ground covered by “Arthur Christmas,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “The Tooth Fairy,” a film more concerned with the mechanics of how Santa manages to make all those toys – he has zany, nonspeaking Yeti and elf assistants – than with telling an interesting story or giving the characters anything much warm or funny to do. The assorted hummingbird-sized tooth fairy assistants are fascinating, visually. But is there a message, a lesson or a laugh in them? No.

“Rise of the Guardians” is harmless enough, and the lack of easy pop-culture jokes represents the post-“Shrek” direction of DreamWorks well enough. But this is the studio’s least entertaining film. For a company that banks on building franchises of kiddie cartoons, from “Shrek” to “Madagascar,” these Guardians don’t rise to the occasion – not by a long shot.

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