Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Rise of the Guardians

On Christmas Day, we went out to see the latest animated feature from Dreamworks, "Rise of the Guardians." I hadn't been interested in this based on the previews, mistaking it for another "saving Christmas" epic (yawn). However, the movie got a very strong recommendation from our friend Bob Seidl, and we are glad we took his advice to see it.

While the "squabbling good guys come together to beat the bad guy" plot isn't wonderfully original, it is wrapped in a design that is often utterly marvelous and witty. Santa Claus has a Russian accent, large "Naughty" and "Nice" tattoos on his burly forearms, and swings a pair of cutlasses like a Baltic Sea pirate. He has a fantastic headquarters/factory/world watch in ice mountains at the North Pole, where the toys are actually made by Yeti, and elves are a somewhat fondly tolerated form of vermin. His sleigh, with its boatlike body and folding wings smacks of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. The Tooth Fairy resembles a humanoid hummingbird, and her palace is likewise a marvel of design. The Easter Bunny is a big, tough, rabbit with an Australian (!) accent, and boomerangs to match. His domain, although more pastoral, is also wondrous and witty. (I was bemused by the animated giant stone egg heads, until Georgie noted that of course they were Easter (Island) heads--.) There's lots more, and we will be seeing it again to catch what we undoubtedly missed.

There is a good plot in the origin of "Jack Frost" (voice by Chris Pine) who, given his magical existence by the mystical and mysterious Man in the Moon, does not know where he comes from nor what his purpose is. He has lead a frustrated and aimless existence, unable to directly interact with human beings and getting along with the other entities with difficulty, if at all. (The Bunny doesn't appreciate snow on Easter and holds a grudge.) Things change when he is called upon to aid the Guardians (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Sandman)against a resurgent Boogyman (Jude Law), who wants to replace children's belief in the wondrous with only belief in the fearsome.

The movie sets the current standard for computer-aided animation with very smooth and beautiful action, stylish character design, and the aforementioned gorgeous settings and backgrounds. The cast of voice actors is star-studded, and gives the quality of performances you would expect from Alec Baldwin as "North/Santa," and Hugh Jackman as "The Bunny." I wasn't familiar with Isla Fisher, the voice of "Tooth," but she has a lengthy resume and stands up to the boys perfectly well. The soundtrack is witty as well, crediting both Turlough O'Carolan and Dimitri Shostakovich, and borrowing from many others.

In sum, a very good story, and some of the most gorgeous and art I've seen on screen in a long time. Highly recommended.

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Tags: animation, fantasy, movies
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