DreamWorks animation hasn’t thrown in the gauntlet yet and from the looks of Rise of the Guardians they’re in this thing to win it. Pixar will need to step it up. Here’s a sleeper hit for the holidays, for the kids and for those who enjoy great storytelling which like How to Train Your Dragon (2010) has a central figure’s story at its core.
The Story: The Easter Bunny, Santa Clause (who goes by the name of North), the Tooth Fairy and The Sandman need help fighting Pitch Black, the dark, fear-generating character who finds himself demanding as much attention as the others—the others above who call themselves Guardians of children’s dreams and general well-being.
The Goods: The Man in the Moon who is not really a man but the moon as a whole silently generates a sense of omniscient presence in bringing one more character into the fold who can help the Guardians defeat Black’s frightening menace. That person is Jack Frost who is center to this story. Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, feels he’s unappreciated since kids don’t know him like Easter, Sandman, Tooth or North (North is voiced in a Russian accent with brilliance by Alec Baldwin). When Frost refuses to join the Guardians, North asks him, “Jack, what is your center?” Jack doesn’t have an answer, but as the film progresses he discovers what that is. And we in return get a fantastic adventure not unlike one The Avengers might deliver only with a central figure to give us more screen time with and guide us through the story.
The Flaws: Yeah, it’s a little long at times, kids will get antsy; and it goes really dark in terms of mood and frightfulness. Wee ones could develop nightmares, which is exactly what Pitch Black would like.
The Call: Spend the ten for one of the year’s best films. The warm glow of light at night in kids’ bedrooms and in the magical places these characters exists is enough to generate enchantment and charm alone. Kudos to screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire for keeping Jack’s center center. Details, too, like North’s reference to nesting dolls as an example of his center, helps add tremendous depth to the entertainment.