It's so hard to find good Christmas movies these days, let alone animated ones. Could it be that The Nightmare Before Christmas was the last word on that?
Well, from the looks of this latest Dreamworks outing, it seems that there's still hope for holiday movies yet! Rise Of The Guardians, while far from perfect (I'll get to that), still boasts enough creativity and popcorn entertainment to make it a fair attempt at something good and festive. The plot sees Jack Frost (Chris Pine) being taken in by the likes of Santa (an unrecognisable Alec Baldwin), The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), The Sandman and The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) to join them as a "Guardian" (basically a Moon-appointed superhero of sorts). Their goal usually being to keep kids safe and their imaginations intact, this time they're having to face off against Pitch Black (a fun Jude Law and a damn good sci-fi B movie) whose plan it is to fill everyone's heads with nightmares and make fear be the only thing to be believed in. Of course, Jack Frost being the rad, devil-may-care prankster emo dude you'd expect, he's not into it at all. He's not so much about saving the world and all that, he's more, to quote the guy himself, "snowballs and funtimes". But when he finds out that this whole adventure might shed some light upon his own personal backstory, he's in!
Typical stuff, really.
Until the adventure gets going.
Once you finally get all these weird characters on that damn slay you've seen time and time again in those trailers then the movie really gets underway. Visually, what some of the characters lack in detail, the film makes up for in stunning location design, cool textures and nail-biting action sequences. I mean, ok Santa's beard looks like frosting and character's smiles are a tad creepy at times but the mythology the film creates pretty much takes you away from all that, so much so that I would have been willing to dismiss a lot of nitpicks had the film kept on being as good as it was in its first half. For those first 45 minutes, I'd call Rise Of The Guardians essential holiday viewing. But then the plot kinda falls apart, and eventually, I'm sad to say, so does the movie.
I mean, ok, the film is based on the idea of "believing" in something that might not necessarily be real to others from the very beginning. Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes, the film decides to give up, take the easy street and go all pseudo-religious on our asses. With a bunny, a hummingbird chick and a mute called Sandy. Which means that it all gets super cheesy near the end and the bold ideas the film threw our way early on soon leads to pure let's-make-it-up-as-we-go-along silliness. Sand dinosaurs, kids helping out Santa and co in the freezing cold without parents even noticing they've left... come on movie! Remember when you introduced us to each Guardian's weird-ass world? That was great! I bought it! But if it was THAT easy to get kids to believe in you, why didn't you just show yourselves to everyone in the first place? That could have had interesting ramifications. And why is Jack Frost's "center" such a surprise? He said early on he was all about snowball and funtimes! And exactly how and why did the Tooth Fairy turn into a hummingbird if she was a girl before? Oh and shouldn't Halloween have a... pumpkin dude or something? Like Pitch Black's nicer twin brother? And if The Tooth Fairy has a French division (mice) how come every country, every culture doesn't have their own Guardian? This could have been a good opportunity to expand this into a really cool, world-friendly franchise.
I guess when you involve the real world in your fantasy epic, you're always treading on thin ice...
Get it? Thin ICE?
As it stands, Rise Of The Guardians is a really good kids movie with enough happening, enough colourful visuals and enough wonder to guarantee young viewers will have a great time from start to finish. Older viewers will find themselves taken in, probably against their will, by those first 45 minutes which are honestly very well done. But by the end, they'll certainly lose interest when it becomes apparent that their "belief" in the new, definitive Christmas movie was in fact but an illusion.
Good and worth checking out but a missed opportunity to create something truly unique and ground-breaking.
*re-watches The Nightmare Before Christmas*