RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
DIRECTED BY Peter Ramsey
STARS Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin
Earth's mightiest heroes manage to put their bickering aside long enough to stop a black-hearted villain with a silky British accent from inflicting his will on innocent people. That synopsis can be used to describe the summer blockbuster The Avengers or the new feature Rise of the Guardians — take your pick.
In this animated outing, the evil Pitch (voiced by Jude Law) plots to make children stop believing in such iconic figures as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny; by doing so, all magic will fade, and he will be able to unleash his nightmares on unsuspecting tots everywhere. In other words, the good guys have their work cut out for them. So with the reluctant help of novice guardian Jack Frost (Chris Pine), the heavily tattooed Santa (Alec Baldwin), the combat-ready Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the cheerful Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), the mute Sandman and various minions (including Santa's elves, obviously patterned after the Minions from Despicable Me) wage a global battle to protect the dreams, toys, teeth and eggs of the world's wee ones.
Based on William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood book series, Rise of the Guardians is one of those cluttered toon flicks that's ultimately more exhausting than exciting, with the added debit of actors who were recruited more for name value than for what they bring to their roles (although Baldwin is mildly amusing as the Russian St. Nick — or should that be St. Nikolai?). Still, the animation (especially the detailed backdrops) is acceptable, the worthy notion of fighting to protect childhood innocence is presented boldly rather than sappily, and there are enough amusing gags to prevent on-the-fence viewers — and critics — from going full Scrooge on the final product.