Thursday, 14 March 2013

Rise Of The Guardians 3D

Rise Of The Guardians 3D

“Everyone!  To the sleigh!”

Remember recent bloated, lacklustre Summer schlockbuster Avengers Assemble where a bunch of second-rung superheroes - Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and, who could forget…Hawkeye? - unite to save the world from alien invaders led by Thor’s camp brother who calls Scarlett Johansson a “mewling quim!” (actually, that bit was quite good…)?  Sure, it might be the third-largest grossing film of all time but, be honest, other than Scarlett in her catsuit and that bit where the Hulk twats Loki and calls him a “Puny god!” can you remember a damn thing about the film?

OK, now take the basic plot of that film; a mismatched group of heroes are forced to unite, teaming up to save the world from evil.  Fill it full of beloved characters you’ve actually heard of – we’re talking Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy – rather than the guy from The Hurt Locker with a bow and arrow, add some mischievous Despicable Me-style minion-esque elves, some adorable Wookie-like Yetis, a dash of melancholy and enough Christmas spirit to make the cast of Miracle On 34th Street puke candy canes and eggnog and you’ve got a breathless 3D Yuletide rollercoaster ride that doesn’t patronise the kids and will thrill the child inside you.

When the evil Pitch the Boogieman (Jude Law) returns after centuries in exile to infect the dreams of children with nightmares and take over the world (mwah-ha-ha-ha…) all that stands against him are the Guardians, a coalition of powerful, magical beings led by North (Alec Baldwin), Santa Claus re-imagined as a Russian Cossack complete with gulag tattoos (NAUGHTY and NICE inked on his muscular forearms), and comprising the mute Harpo Marx-like Sandman, an Australian boomerang-toting Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the iridescent feathered Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), who protect the world’s children from evil.  Pitch is out to destroy the Guardians by destroying children’s belief in them - if the kids lose hope and stop believing, they’ll stop existing!  With their own lives and the happiness of the world’s children at stake, the Guardians must recruit troubled loner and eternal teenager, the Peter Pan-like Jack Frost (Chris Pine) if they hope to defeat Pitch.  But Jack has his own problems, not least of which is no-one believes in him…

Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians Of Childhood series of children’s books and exec produced by Guillermo Del Toro, Rise Of The Guardians is a darker, moodier, more mature foray into the world of animation for Dreamworks after the more crowd-friendly, pop culture reference-littered Shrek and Kung Fu Panda movies.  With it’s imaginative, almost steampunk Victoriana look, the film captures the spirit of the books, carving out it’s own tale of redemption and coming-of-age that celebrates faith, hope and childhood innocence in a world where magic and wonder still exist and lost teeth are the repositories of your childhood memories.

Dedicated to the memory of Joyce’s daughter (who died of a brain tumour during production) whose innocent childhood question “Did Santa ever meet the Easter Bunny?” inspired the original stories, there’s a welcome streak of melancholy running through Rise Of The Guardians that undercuts its treacly potential.  Like a kids version of The Bourne Identity, it’s hero, mischievous Spirit of Winter Jack Frost, is a hoodie-wearing amnesiac groping for his place in the world, desperately lonely, desperate to fit in, desperate to remember just who he is and how he became what he is.  He’s the ultimate Lost Boy in a movie where the spectre of lost childhood, of lost children, is never far away. 

While some of its darker moments (and certainly Pitch’s army of evil nightmare horses) may be a little scary for very young children, Rise Of The Guardians is a welcome antidote to the smugness of recent animated films like Aardman’s The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists!, ParaNorman or Frankenweenie.  It may owe a huge debt to Pixar whose formula it borrows but Rise Of The Guardians is about as uncynical an attempt to inspire and instill wonder and awe in its young audience as you’re liable to see this Christmas.  Filled with loveable characters, thrilling aerial chases and magical battles that are heightened by the immersive 3D and a hero who’s been perpetually on the naughty list but comes good in the end, Rise Of The Guardians is fast, frenetic Christmas fun for the whole family that constantly beguiles and bewitches. 

David Watson

Directed by:
Written by:
Produced by:
Adventure, Animation
1 hour 37 minutes
UK Release Date:
Friday 30th November

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