It’s that time of year where Oscar contenders and films infused with cavity-inducing sentimentality and earnestness infest our movie theaters, and it’s up to viewers to pick the ones actually worth watching on the big screen. It’s the holiday season, and families want to be able to bring their children to a film that will entertain not just the squirming toddlers, but also themselves as well, films with a good message, with pretty colors that will help distract their kids once the popcorn and Skittles have run out.
Not to say that Rise of the Guardians is only for a certain age group, just that it perfectly plays into the market of the season. It’s family friendly, happy and feel good, great fun and sprinkled with some overwrought messages here and there.
Luckily enough for movie goers that simply respect and enjoy well-made animated films, this film will also fulfill your expectations as well.
The film follows Jack Frost, that pesky sprite of sorts that causes snow days, snow ball fights, and the occasional runny nose. He’s always felt like an outsider ever since the moon spirit created him, and it’s left him with a feeling of resentment towards others like him.
That would be the guardians: Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the Sandman, all wonderfully created and animated.
However when Pitch, otherwise known as the Boogie Man, threatens to ruin the innocence of children of the world and place fear back in their hearts, all of the Guardians must band together, enlist Jack Frost, and protect the children.
It’s the original superheroes to kids.
The animation for this film is absolutely stunning. DreamWorks Studios impressed me previously with How to Train Your Dragon, and they’ve done it again, managing to keep the colorful and vibrant, all the while allowing shadows and the hints of “dark versus light” to edge their way into the frame. In particular, the way in which they managed to create the character Sandy and the dream dust that he sends to all of the children of the world is one of the most impressive feats of animation I’ve seen this year.
As I’ve mentioned, the themes are a little overwrought, but in a season in which there’s already plenty of movies in theaters that are action packed, heart wrenching or stress inducing, sometimes it’s nice to relax and enjoy a film that’s only fault is that it’s too festive, too joyful.
Unlike animated films such as ParaNorman and How to Train Your Dragon, the stakes at risk are minimal. There is no uncertainty that the guardians will prevail, that Jack will find his identity, that all the children will go on to believe another day. However, as DreamWorks is proving prone to do, they do hint at something dark, at something bleak. Jacks previous life and the way it ended is very sad and moving, this is a film produced by Guillermo del Toro, but it will go straight over kids heads and only be truly understood by older age groups. It’s that hint of a background that allows the movie from being too oversaturated by sweetness.
This is a happy film. Is it the best animated film of this year? No, but this has been a fantastic year for animation all across the board. Every studio, Pixar, DreamWorks, Laika has had some wonderful films be released, and it’s cause to stop and wonder why animated films are so easily brushed off as nothing but kid films. It’s a innovative art form that continuously makes great leaps in the ways in which they tell a story.
Based on the children’s story by William Joyce and directed by Peter Ramsey, this film is the same. It’s joy in its purest form, a story about hope.