Dec 24, 2012

[Movies] Rise of the Guardians (2012)

I had actually watched this movie with +Tobie Abad (testing G+ Blogger integration!) a while back, but given all the other movies we had also watched since then, this review got deferred a bit. But I also figured it would be nicely time to review Rise of the Guardians this close to Christmas. No matter how you look at it, you have to concede that this is our child-focused holiday animated feature for 2012. It's practically a tradition at this point.

As is more and more the case these days, I have not had a chance to read the books that the movie is based on. If it helps any, I did have a bit of a discussion with a friend who has, at least to give me better perspective on the franchise. If anything, I wanted to go see it since it meant having all these mythical characters together in one story. And that has to be worth something, right?

Of course this is coming from a geek who still actively collects Transformers and random LEGO minifigs. Go figure.

Synopsis: Rise of the Guardians is a CGI-animated movie released by Dreamworks Productions. The movie is set about 200 years after The Guardians of Childhood book series by William Joyce and was directed by Peter Ramsey with a screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire.

The movie begins with Jack Frost (Chris Pine) sharing the story of how he one day woke up as the spirit of winter. All he knew was the fact that the moon had given him his powers over cold and frost but never explained what he was meant to do. Thus he's gone on in this strange existence of causing mischief here and there with no one able to see or hear him.

In the present day, Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin) is alerted to the fact that an old threat, Pitch the Bogeyman (Jude Law), may have returned. Thus he rallies his fellow Guardians to discuss how to face this threat, these being the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman. Once together, they discover that the Man in the Moon, who also gave them their charge as Guardians, has decided a new Guardian is needed to help them in their fight. And this new Guardian is none other than Jack Frost.

I'll start things off by going straight to the point - I didn't really like the casting decision to get Chris Pine. While Jack Frost isn't exactly an elementary-age kid by any means, Pines still has a voice that sounded way too old for the character. And his forced laughter sounded more disturbing rather than genuinely mirthful. And so a lot of his playful, mischievous moments just felt weird to me.

The rest of the voice cast was pretty good and I have no other issues. Naturally English accents work for villains and Jude Law did well to bring Pitch to life. And the other characters relished in their stereotypes, which for kids means a lot of fun moments. And yes, I totally loved the fact that Sandman was actually silent and could only communicate through thought balloon style constructs.

Another great thing about the movie was the fact that a lot of the comic relief did not involve characters throwing silly jokes around all the time. Instead most of it focused on the less vocal members of the cast as led by Sandman himself. But other notable folks without clear speaking lines but that were no less funny were Santa's elves and yetis and even those stone egg warriors in the Easter Bunny's domain. It takes some serious direction to be able to orchestrate that kind of humor consistently across an entire movie. So this really worked for me.

But overall, the story didn't quite feel as tight as it could have been or maybe some of the voice acting just distracted me in certain points. And the whole Jack Frost not knowing what his purpose was for most of the movie was a point that dragged a bit and took away from the thunder of the whole thing.

Rise of the Guardians is still a lovely movie with beautiful visuals and some great action. Could have been better, but also could have been far worse given Hollywood's usual tropes in this genre. The movie still rates 3.5 strange walking Easter eggs out of a possible 5.

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