Today: July 12, 2024
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Rise Of The Guardians

Remember recent bloated, lacklustre Summer schlockbuster Avengers Assemble

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 it’s 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

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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