Rise of the Guardians

Not the Sequel to Owls of Ga’Hoole


Review written by Robert D. Patrick

Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin

When you think of folklore and mythology, you think about the ethereal candidness of the sandman or the spectral enchantments of the tooth fairy. Maybe the portly mass of a bellowing Santa Claus or the wonky pattering of the Easter Bunny. How about the whittled teeth of the Jersey Devil or the dour expression of the Moth Man. Actually, the last two characters aren’t in director Peter Ramsey’s adaptation of William Joyce’s children’s book, The Guardians of Childhood, though it would have made things more interesting if they had been.

Rise of the Guardians, not to be confused with Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, is a cooly animated children’s movie that has triangular, sometimes crudely hexagonal interpretations of folklore characters, recklessly bounce around while sparring with the forces of evil (who else but the Boogeyman). The sandman, looking like a blimpish version of Harpo Marx, complete with a lifeless tongue; a decidedly Russian version of Santa Claus, adorned with two forearm tattoos; an Australian Easter bunny that recycles Paul Hogan quips from “Crocodile” Dundee; and a version of Jack Frost that dresses like a crestfallen Mark Zuckerberg, complete with lifeless hoodie. Just the way you imagined the catalysts of holiday spirit to your family. How could you not describe Santa Claus to your children as a Russian with an accent more exaggerated than the one Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle had? If this movie had been made in the 1950s, the House of Un-American Activities would have lined up the creators of this movie in front of a firing squad – sans cigarettes. You boys thought you had it bad with Elia Kazan!

Ramsey’s film revolves around a Justice League of folklore characters that are out to battle the brooding, maniacal Pitch (Jude Law). To quell the fanged adversary, the Guardians must ascertain the help of a despondent, can-kicking Jack Frost (Chris Pine). As the silver haired wunderkind throttles existential quandaries, he must begrudgingly save the world from a snarky Jude Law and some embarrassingly clunky animation. Rise of the Guardians has some of the most jagged, glass-eyed computer work since 2009’s Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest. Ramsey’s film even has clumsy and unintelligible Christmas elves that behave exactly like the Minions in Despicable Me. All sorts of recycled animated tropes are thrown at the milk bottles of moviegoers in this clunker of a film.

As the movie progresses, we see more of the gaunt, monochrome Pitch character as he seethes and chuckles. The antagonist’s greatest powers are calling shadows and having a great hairline. Jude Law hisses and coos for the duration of the film in a voice performance that gets lodged somewhere between awkward and confounding. Rise of the Guardians’ crushingly poor computer work and dubious storyline not only bastardizes children’s folklore but also regresses the medium of animation. A hearty failure on all accounts.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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