So, today I got to go to an advanced screening of Dreamworks’ new movie Rise of the Guardians. Let me just say, that I am a sucker for the holiday season. I absolutely love it when things get sparkly with lights and people go home to their families. Even though I live in one of the warmest states in America, I still bundle up and pretend like it’s snowing outside. So it’s safe to say that I have seen my share of Christmas/holiday movies. That being said, this movie is safely going to take place somewhere near the top of a long list. The film is the hard work of director Peter Ramsey, who is embarking on his first feature film (I believe, if IMDB serves correct), but has been known to work on movies like Fight Club, Independence Day, Men in Black, and other big movie blockbusters. He works alongside the creator of The Guardians of Childhood book series author William Joyce, who collaborated with none other than Guillermo del Toro (also the exec-producer) to write the script. Dreamworks has created a heartfelt tale that brings back the spirit of childhood to disillusioned kids and adults alike.
Although the story itself centers around a young Jack Frost, there is no shortage of screen time for “North” aka Santa Claus, “Tooth”/Tooth Fairy, “Bunny”/Easter Bunny, and “Sandy”/The Sandman. The group comes together in a very Avengers-esque moment to protect all the children of the world from the villainous “Pitch Black” or as we know him: The Boogeyman. And while the movie is not without its own quirky and funny moments, like Bunny and Jack bantering together or Tooth’s obsession with other people’s teeth, it is a movie that ultimately pulls at the heartstrings. Jack Frost, a spirit of Winter, has been forgotten by children, despite the joy he gives to them. He spends his days as a lighthearted trickster, flying around causing snow days and snowball fights. Underestimated by some, including himself, he is chosen by “The Man in the Moon” (a omnipresent, yet incredibly distant authority figure) to become a Guardian. Although he doubts his worth as a Guardian, his confidence is reaffirmed by North.
Speaking of St. Nick, the other Guardians have been altered from their traditional forms. Jolly St. Nick is a gruff and swashbuckling Russian, accompanied not only by elves but also by yetis. The Tooth Fairy is a savvy young female fairy that seems more a cross between hummingbird, Wall Street stock broker, and enthusiastic anthropologist, working tirelessly every day with a love for well-flossed lateral incisors. The Easter Bunny is a Australian accented Hugh Jackman who seems like he should be getting into bar brawls rather than delicately painting Easter eggs. The Sandman is a mute but expressive guardian shaped like a fluffy cream puff and seemingly the most level headed of the group. The villain is a dark and sinister Pitch Black, and despite the slightly cheesy name, he plays the perfect slimey manipulative fear-loving antagonist, he’s not grotesque or even that terrifying as a person, but his abilities and machinations make him a handful for the Guardians.
The movie pulls out all the stops, and like I said before, could very easily be compared to Avengers. It’s an origin story as well as an ensemble tale. Without giving away spoilers, let me just say it’s similar to Avengers in the good and the heartbreaking ways. The excellent soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat puts the perfect mood on the film, and you guys know how much I love Monsieur Desplat. At one point during the viewing I literally had to relax my face because I had been smiling so widely at the spectacle. The Sandman’s beautifully sculpted dream sand is enough to make me want to watch it all again, but it’s not just visual. The story is genuine and never falls into the traps that so many Christmas movies do. The development of the character of Jack Frost from reluctant Guardian to hero is one that the audience can both relate to and root for.
So, if you have any kids or younger siblings, I would definitely recommend taking them with you this Thanksgiving Day weekend to go see it, Rise of the Guardians comes out on November 21st, 2012. Hell, if you even just want to go with friends, it’s worth it. It heralds back to a time that everyone can understand, even if you didn’t grow up with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I didn’t, I grew up in a traditional Chinese family and I still understood the spirit of magic that was so beautiful in this movie. It’s no Oscar award winner, but don’t let the skeptics and muggles bring you down. Also, if you can, see it in 3D. I watched it in a theater full of kids, so I’m glad I wasn’t the only one reaching out to the screen as snow fell or jumping back as things flew around the screen. It’s all part of the experience.