By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Who says little kids can't have their own Avengers? For starters, how about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?
Hey, unlikely action heroes they may be, but they see plenty of action in Rise of the Guardians, a fable about the importance of sustaining belief and overcoming fears that moves along like an action flick for the family.
The animated adventure fantasy, Rise of the Guardians, reimagines the familiar icons of childhood as the loosely affiliated supernatural protectors of the world's kids.
Blustery, Russian-accented Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin); the pugnacious, Australian-accented Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman); the melancholy Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher); and the magical Sandman (appropriately mute) comprise The Guardians of Childhood.
They're stacked against Pitch (Jude Law), the embittered boogeyman who likes to operate in pitch black and is attempting to dominate sleeping children's nightmares, undermine their belief in the Guardians, and thus more or less take over the world.
Meanwhile, young, seemingly carefree Jack Frost (Chris Pine) yearns to spend his time doing more than just, as the song says, nipping at your nose. He's like to get much more attention from the world's children and would like to exert the kind of influence on them that creatures like Santa and Bunny do at Christmas and Easter.
So he's open to being recruited by the other mythic superheroes as their newest member to join them in their fight against Pitch. Maybe his invisibility will come in handy.
First-time director Peter Ramsey gives the film a striking visual inventiveness but keeps things moving along at the kind of brisk pace that makes one wonder if he's afraid that slowing things down might threaten the film's house-of-cards structure. That's part of the reason why no individual character really connects emotionally with the audience and the film never quite becomes enchanting as intended in its attempt to become an oft-revisited seasonal family classic.
However, Rise of the Guardians engages children's sense of wonder and love of spectacle with frenetic action, hyperkinetic pacing, and energetic noise: Sandman's participation notwithstanding, no one will fall asleep during this exercise.
Children's book author and illustrator William Joyce co-adapted the screenplay, along with David Lindsay-Abaire, from his own book series, Guardians of Childhood, as well as his short film, The Man in the Moon. They've attached all kinds of neuroses and insecurities to their back stories, but their script is curiously stingy in the humor department, to some degree because the screenplay, for better or worse, aims for timelessness and refrains from connecting with its audience via contemporary pop-culture references.
So we'll defrost 2½ stars out of 4. Rise of the Guardians is likely to get a rise out of the small fry in attendance, if not their guardians.
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