(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on December 23, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/tepid-holiday-fare)
Voice cast: Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law
Director: Peter Ramsey
Rating: 2 stars
As far as film-critiquing goes, the one occasion I dread more than Valentine’s Day is the Holiday Season – while Hollywood compulsively churns out average movies starring a bevy of A-listers to commemorate both, Christmas releases will draw a large audience, mostly because we’re all bored out of our skulls, thanks to our sitcoms and dramas going off air for weeks. With a voice cast that mostly irritates, and a trite script with hardly any originality, Rise of the Guardians is easily one of DreamWorks’ most disappointing animation films.
We should have been warned when the trailers released, and we were introduced to the Easter Bunny, who goes by ‘Bunnymund’ (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy with the bug-like features (Isla Fisher), and Santa Claus who goes by ‘North’ and speaks in an accent that he claims is Russian (Alec Baldwin). Apparently with the intent of making the movie as internationally appealing as they can, the filmmakers have thrown in a multitude of accents – American, British, Slavic, and Australian. The ones that are genuine don’t grate so much, except that Jackman is occasionally incomprehensible. But all Alec Baldwin achieves with his miserable accent for North is to make us involved enough in the film to wonder which actor could have pulled it off better. I got as far as thanking the filmmakers for making Sandman mute, and not throwing Antonio Banderas’ husky tones into the mix.
Script? I believe it’s based on William Joyce’s children’s book series, and it does have the odd nice idea – like a tooth fairy who guards her store of children’s teeth, because their memories of childhood are stored in those. However, the danger posed to the purity of these memories by Pitch Black (Jude Law), the villain, doesn’t quite make sense. Neither do we see why Sandman needs any help fighting off Pitch and his army, because he seems the smartest of the Guardians.
As usual, there’s a character who’s something of a misfit – in this case, Jack Frost (Chris Pine) – and whose role in the adventure is a milestone in his journey of self-discovery. As usual, the villain’s British. As usual, the animation is quite beautiful, especially when Sandman spins dreams for children. But there’s nothing on offer for the unfortunate adults who’re accompanying children to the film, and the only thing we can do to occupy ourselves is figure out why the film doesn’t work.
The Verdict: It’s a corny cocktail of Arthur Christmas, Peter Pan and Monsters Inc.