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"Rise of the Guardians" Movie Review: A unique story combined with amazing visuals makes for a real holiday treat.

Updated on November 27, 2012

Jack Frost and the Guardians

Jack Frost leads the Guardians against the forces of darkness.
Jack Frost leads the Guardians against the forces of darkness. | Source

Review of "Rise of the Guardians"

If this holiday season you're looking for a fun family movie that doesn't follow the usual holiday film formula, this may be the movie for you. Most of your standard holiday movies feature Santa, and Rise of the Guardians certainly does that, but this movie differs in its focus. The main character and center of the story is Jack Frost, not your usual Christmas hero.

The movie plot (without spoilers) consists of the four current Guardians of all the children of the world being faced with the unexpected rise of a old nemesis. The Boogeyman, long put aside as a childish myth, has accumulated enough power to challenge the four legendary Guardians; Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman. Santa, voiced by Alec Baldwin in a flawless Russian accent, really gives the movie a great deal of its holiday feel, and it becomes clear early on that he is the leader of the four Guardians. In order to stand against the Boogeyman and his new creations, they must seek the help of the mischievous loner Jack Frost, who they soon discover doesn't feel up to the task. The movie then focuses on Jack and how he handles being brought into the conflict and the personal changes he undergoes in response to the events in the movie.

The biggest deviation from your standard holiday fair is letting Santa play second fiddle to another mythical figure to whom we give much less thought, the infamous Jack Frost. In this sense, the movie is not really a Christmas movie at all, though the heavy presence of Santa and general message of giving children hope keeps up the holiday feel. This is one of the things that makes the movie worth seeing, but at the same time may create a feeling of confusion if you were expecting a pure Christmas movie. It's not often you see a major production such as this deviate from the tried and true holiday model, and it's even less often you see it pulled off so well. The overall result here is a movie with a different and unique feel, which was probably what I personally found most appealing.

The portrayal of the four Guardians is truly amazing as well. Each Guardian has a well developed personality that deviates from the standard conception. A rough and tumble Easter Bunny makes for a fun and unexpected twist, and Santa with his two swords isn't what you usually expect either. The Tooth Fairy as a bit flighty isn't much of a surprise, and is probably the weakest developed of the characters, which is unfortunate considering how important she is to the plot as the movie really beings to progress. The sandman is a bit preoccupied and dreamy as one might expect, but his unusual way of communicating with others helps give him a new and different dynamic as well. Perhaps what is most impressive is the realistic portrayal of what Santa Claus might be like if he really was the old Russian Saint Nick, with his authentic Russian swords, his penchant for Russian music, and his tendency to use the names of Russian composers in place of cursing. Hey, it is a kid friendly movie after all.

The new plot type and unusual hero are accentuated by the amazing visuals of this movie. From the dreams conjured out of golden gleaming sand by the Sandman to the remarkable fight scenes between the Guardians and the Boogeyman, this movie is visually astounding from beginning to end. Truth be told, it may be the most visually commendable effort to date from Dreamworks on the animation front.

There are only a few issues I have with the movie, and they're small enough that they didn't diminish my delight in the movie as a whole. The first is the flat character model for the Tooth Fairy. While perhaps not what one would visualize the Tooth Fairy to be (she's depicted as more of a hummingbird than a traditional fairy type), the character doesn't have the same quality that all the others do. In some subtle way she lacks something and gives off a weakest link feel, which is only made worse by certain events in the movie that make her appear even less capable as a Guardian of the world's children. It's not the voice acting, which, as for all the characters, is absolutely perfect, but simply a flaw in the conception of the character. The other only other problem I see isn't really a problem per say, but causes a slightly off feeling. Truth be told, this isn't a Christmas movie, as mentioned earlier, even though the feel of the movie consistently does maintain a Christmas feel. It's really more of a general winter holidays movie, and not something specifically Christmas. This, of course, increases it's value in the long run (DVD release, for example), but creates a feeling of conflict within the movie itself, like it's not really sure what it is or wants to be. Like I said earlier though, if this is a flaw, it's a great one, because it makes for a holiday movie that doesn't feel like any of the others out there right now at all.

The plot is exciting and unique, but I don't believe this is Dreamworks best work, and probably not the best movie out this holiday season. However, because of the high quality of Dreamworks movies in general, that's no slight and in no way should be taken to mean the movie isn't worth seeing. Personally, I would highly recommend it because, despite its few and minor flaws, it is largely a highly successful work. It's family friendly, beautiful to watch, and captivating from beginning to the end. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd give it an 8.5, and that's well within my range of must see movies without a doubt!


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