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Guardians of kids’ innocence
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
DIRECTOR: Peter Ramsay
VOICE CAST: Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Jude Law
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny and Jack Frost team up to defeat the Bogeyman in this Dreamworks take on childhood legends.
These animated guardians have nothing to do with the owls of Ga’Hoole or the Marvel Studios’ forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. These are the story characters that every Western household tells the children about at some point.
Be good, or Santa won’t bring presents, be nice, or the Easter Bunny won’t bring Easter eggs, we say. The Sandman brings you dreams and the Tooth Fairy fetches your milk teeth. So, what if they actually knew each other, was a question author William Joyce answered in his Guardians of Childhood book series. Now we have a movie.
In the film, Jack Frost (Pine) is the lesser-known character who is awarded Guardian status by the Man on the Moon when Pitch (Law) threatens the innocence of all the world’s children.
He teams up with a cutlass-wielding Santa (Baldwin does a jolly Russian accent), an almost 2m tall Bunny (Jackman) with a boomerang, a deceptively innocent- looking Sandy (no voice, but he makes himself understood) and the seemingly flighty Tooth Fairy (Fisher).
As is expected from Dreamworks the animation is impeccable, with flight sequences especially inducing a giddiness of spirit.
The storyline, though, is corny and obvious and none of the characters are so cool that they would stand the test of time.
This must have been script and character development by committee because all the characters are so homogenised and the storyline is so smooth as to be almost bland.
The very individuality that would have made the characters endearing is stamped out for the broadest appeal. The minions from Despicable Me have been split between the elves and the yeti in Santa’s workshop, so again there are flashes of cute, but nothing original.
Jack Frost is the least exploited of anthropomorphised characters in terms of film lore, so anything should’ve worked. Instead, the filmmakers show too much and leave nothing to the imagination. The appeal of fables is the darkness hinted at – what we imagine is often so much worse than the reality.
Terry Pratchett went dark in his Tiffany Aching books when he approached the Jack Frost character and there’s a hint of Bill Willingham’s Mr Dark in the Pitch character, but for the film dark seems to mean the colour black, not scary or evil.
Hence Jack Frost is portrayed as an emo kid version of Peter Pan, out to have as much fun as he can, but yearning for a family, sense of belonging and personal history.
The Tooth Fairy owes more to the Disney fairies like Tinker Bell than she does to Maleficent, while The Easter Bunny has some funny lines, but there’s only so much cute you can handle.
A big theme of the film is that it is the belief of children that keeps these anthropomorphised characters alive in the hearts and minds of children – that if the children stop believing in them, the characters become powerless and fade away.
So, if you don’t teach children kids’ stuff, they’re not going to believe? And here I always thought it was the innocence of childhood and that sense of amazement and wonder that goes hand in hand with experiencing things for the first time that made you believe.
The film is aimed at the children who are too small to watch Avengers yet ready for their own action-adventure team-up, but it’s going to take much more than an animated visual tell-all smorgasbord of colour and light to make cynical adults believe again.
If you liked… ‘The Polar Express’ or ‘Shrek the Third’… you will like this.
• WIN! WIN! WIN!
To celebrate the nationwide release of ‘Rise of the Guardians’ today, Tonight is offering 5 lucky readers the chance to win a ‘Rise of the Guardians’ hamper. Each hamper consists of a watch, a glitter pen set, a stationary set and a snow globe. To stand a chance of winning, all you have to do is answer the following question:
Name the guardians
Send your answers, along with your name and contact details, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put ‘Rise of the Guardians competition’ in the subject line. The competition closes on Wednesday, December 12, at midnight. Only the winners will be contacted.