Spake: Smart 'Rise of the Guardians' keeps the faith alive - East Valley Tribune: Movies

Spake: Smart 'Rise of the Guardians' keeps the faith alive

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Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 2:00 am

Folkloric legends truly are the guardians of childhood. From the perspective of a child, the world can be an enchanting place full of infinite wonder and possibilities. The belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and others fuels such innocence. Once their existence is questioned though, kids begin to slide down an unstoppable downhill slope that will inevitably result in adulthood. Most grown-ups likely envy children for their ability to believe in such mythical beings. How we all long to replace our adult cynicism and practicality with the magic and mystery of youth.

It’s nice to think that the Tooth Fairy and Sandman are not just real, but also productively working to preserve the marvel of childhood. That’s the premise of the new animated feature from DreamWorks, “Rise of the Guardians.” Based on the book by William Joyce, the film is directed by Peter Ramsey, who up until now has primarily worked as a storyboard artist, and adapted by David Lindsay-Abaire, who wrote the book and lyrics for “Shrek the Musical.” They have produced a smart and gorgeously rendered animation that should keep the faith in these beloved mystical beings alive.

While Santa and the Tooth Fairy have always had a loyal fan following, Jack Frost has never been high on the totem pole of supernatural characters. That’s one of the reasons why nobody has ever been able to see him. Despite Jack’s invisibility, he is still out there bringing snow and the spirit of winter everywhere he goes. Drawn with white hair, pale skin, and a purple hoodie, Jack Frost is energetically voiced by Chris Pine in a playful performance. Talk about an upgrade from that snowman puppet abomination voiced by Michael Keaton.

The man in the moon calls upon Jack Frost to join the guardians, an immortal team comprised of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and Easter Bunny. Their top priority is to stop the Boogey Man, or Pitch as he’s called here. Jude Law is deliciously evil as Pitch, who shares a resemblance to Lord Voldemort only with more hair. His plan is to plague kid’s dreams with nightmares in addition to debunking the existence of the guardians. Without the guardians to believe in, the very fabric of childhood will be ripped.

“Rise of the Guardians” has a lot of fun reimagining these beloved characters. Alec Baldwin’s Santa is much more buff than chubby, with “naughty” and “nice” tattooed onto his arms. Although the mute Sandman operates at night, he brightly glows with the radiance of the sun. The Tooth Fairy, voiced by a spunky Isla Fisher, has the appearance of a woman crossed with a hyper humming bird. The Easter Bunny meanwhile is an outback explorer with the Australian accent of Hugh Jackman. Whoever came up with the idea to make the Eastern Bunny Australian is beyond me. But it’s just one of the many strange, different approaches in “Rise of the Guardians” that oddly works.

The film isn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as the first two “Shrek” pictures or as heartfelt as “How to Train Your Dragon.” The clever premise can also occasionally take a backseat to the action sequences, especially in the climax of good vs. evil. For what “Rise of the Guardians” is though, it’s a charming family movie that’s always fun to observe. Somewhere down the line we may be get a sequel that brings in Cupid, a leprechaun, and the Great Pumpkin.

Grade: B

Nick Spake is a college student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past seven years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com

Reach the reporter at nspake@asu.edu

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