(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on December 22, 2012)
Voice cast: Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law
Director: Peter Ramsey
Rating: 2 stars
First up, an Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) who’s not fuzzy and cute, but has the build of a kangaroo, and is described as “standing on two very big feet, armed with egg bombs and an Australian accent”. Next, a Jack Frost (Chris Pine) who’s not an old man with twinkling eyes and a worn stick, but a slight boy with a penchant for mischief, and a yearning to be visible – no, we’re not being metaphorical. Then, a Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) with an army of Baby Teeth, who titter as they tuck away fallen teeth into custom-made safes. A silent, but cheerful, Sandman, who isn’t sleek and enigmatic, but tubby and somehow adorable. Finally, a Santa (Alec Baldwin) who goes by ‘North’ and puts on an accent that teeters between Scottish and East European.
If you want to make a fun Christmas movie, perhaps a cast that goes against all the pre-conceived notions the audience walks in with is a decent original idea. Sadly, the rest of the film treads the beaten path, down to long, blitzy action sequences, and existential crises. Even in the scenes or plots where we can’t make obvious connections to other films, there’s something cloyingly predictable about it all. That’s probably because the few sequences with originality seem to be a response to anticipated criticism – “See, we’re different fromArthur Christmas because here, Santa doesn’t have an army of elves, but an army of yetis!”
When the characters aren’t staring soulfully at the moon, they’re tearing across the world on Santa’s sleigh. This means we’re pulled through clouds, tunnels and whatnot over and over again, in an attempt to get us dizzily high. It works for some time, but then, you start thinking, “Meh”. The humour in the film mostly draws from lines that are supposedly funny because characters miss each other’s sarcasm.
The plot on which this film hinges is that there’s a Boogie Man who goes by Pitch Black (Jude Law), whose mission is to run the Guardians to the ground by convincing children magic, fairies, and the creatures they’ve grown up believing in, don’t exist. I say that’s a noble cause. I mean, they have to find out some time, and they’re better off without a weightlifting rabbit and a schizophrenic Santa for buddies. But he also gives them nightmares, by altering the shapes of the dreams Sandman weaves. Those parts provide for the best animation in the film.
The rest of the film disappoints, mainly because of its glaring unoriginality – Santa swears by altering the names of Russian composers (Captain Haddock recall, anyone?) The film can barely sustain itself, leave alone grow into a franchise like the Shrek, Madagascar andKung Fu Panda films.
The Verdict: The film may work for kids who get thrills from sleigh rides, but has very little to offer adults.