These days we as a generation have become much more cynical during holiday seasons. The very validity of holidays have been put on display to be prodded at and slammed as nothing more than products of consumerism. Christmas seems to no longer be about giving and being with loved ones nor a Christian celebration; instead it’s now seen as a month devoted to receiving the biggest, best present and complaining for about all the little ones. Easter seems to have lost its magic of welcoming spring and instead is about buying the perfect Easter outfit and treats. Even Valentine’s is no longer a celebration of love, but now as testament of how you can prove your love through your wallet. Dreamwork’s Rise of the Guardians does something special for all of us cynical Scrooges— it reestablishes what various holidays and folklores mean and how first and foremost they are about preserving the wonder of our world and the innocence of childhood.
Rise of the Guardians follows the trade of Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), and The Sandman; all designated “guardians,” or protectors of children the world over. The guardians are faced with a challenge when Pitch Black (Jude Law), also known as the Boogeyman, emerges from the shadows with plans to gain notoriety through putting fear in the hearts of children everywhere and covering the world with darkness. Pitch plans on doing so because mythical beings only exist in their full glory if children believe in them, however, if that belief ceases to exist then so do they, and further they will be forced to live a life of exile where they are unseen and unknown by humans.
Thus, the existence of Jack Frost, a mischievous boy whose deeds, like causing snow days and initiating epic snow fights and winter fun, go unnoticed by the youth as his name is nothing more than an expression that parents use to get their kids to bundle up. Nevertheless, Jack is chosen to become a Guardian and help the Avenger’s like team fight against Pitch. Jack must prove to his peers he’s capable, yet also figure out his reasoning for being chosen or even existing.
Existential crisis in a kid’s film. Go on…
I was apprehensive about Rise of the Guardians, shooing it off as another cheap holiday film whose only purpose is to crank out dollars for studio heads. However, Rise of the Guardians is a surprisingly heartfelt and meaningful story for children and adults alike. It’s a simplistic, straightforward story, but with intriguing character development that showcases complex human aspects like reaching one’s potential and figuring out what purpose we have on this Earth. Nearly every character gets a focus emphasizing their abilities and special role in life.
Santa is depicted as a large Russian with tattooed arms and he totes two swords at his side ready to punish those naughty enough to cross his path. He’s passionate about his job, making sure that every toy is perfect enough to bring a smile to the face of children. Tooth on the other hand, a hybrid hummingbird person, is consumed with passion for children’s teeth, being able to identify every tooth and reason for extraction from one’s mouth. The Tooth Fairy is given more depth than just replacing teeth to keep children happy; her pleasure comes from the innocence of children and how their purity is preserved in each baby tooth they lose. Rise of the Guardians does a great job giving a back story and appreciation for characters that for years I’ve cared much less about ever since I was told of their non-existence.
The biggest problem with Rise of the Guardians is that while it’s a great film, it’s too safe. The first half of the film was humdrum and slow; I was even debating if I was going to give it three or four beers. Jokes and humorous moments were sparse and lackluster and the choice for characters’ voices is the film’s weakest spot. Hugh Jackman’s thick Australian accent as the Easter Bunny just doesn’t make sense at all. Also the lack of diversity within the film is pretty disheartening. Rise of the Guardians focuses on how these guardians protect the entire world of children, yet barely only two different races are shown throughout. The world isn’t represented well and the lack of diversity is shocking considering the depth the film takes with exploring the origins of these guardians.
“Look at all these vastly different parts of the world! But ignore the fact that we all share cultural likeness.”
Despite a shaky first half, Rise of the Guardians is an impressive story that brought tears to my eyes numerous times. The ingenuity of the history and space in which these characters inhabit is impressive and for those who see it in 3D, the effects are pretty cool, not mind blowing, but good nonetheless. Rise of the Guardians is a great reminder that holidays have only become cynical because we as a society are.
Holiday folklore is instead meant to make us grateful and relive the wonder and beauty that we once saw of the world as children. The best part about Christmas wasn’t just getting that bike you always wanted, it’s being able to ride joyously on it with the neighborhood kids later that day. Losing a tooth wasn’t about the money, it was celebrating getting older while still believing in childish wonders. If we allow our kids to remember this for as long as possible perhaps they will grow to remember that days like Thanksgiving should be spent enjoying the company of loved ones and not in lines ready to fight over flat screen televisions.
Take a Drink: every time Jack’s deeds go unnoticed.
Take a Drink: every time Pitch sends a horse to terrify others.
Take a Drink: every time North brandishes a sword or Bunny whips out his boomerangs.
Do a Shot: when someone’s says “Pitch,” but you forget it’s a family film and question why they’re calling him such a rude name.