By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

2012 has been quite the year for animated films.  Pixar, Sony, Disney and even Focus Features (ParaNorman) have already released their entries, and now Dreamworks throws their hat into the ring. In a year where (in my opinion) Pixar’s offering, Brave, falls short compared to those presented by the other studios, Rise of the Guardians does deliver a competitive film, but one that I feel falls into last place in terms of major animated releases this year.  That is not to say that it is a bad film.  No. Guardians should be lauded for fine family entertainment perfectly timed to celebrate the coming holidays.

When the wicked bogeyman Pitch Black (Jude Law) begins attacking the happiness of children across the globe, Santa Claus aka “North” (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Sandman (silent character), and the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) recruit the devil-may-care Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to help restore joy and happiness in the children of the world.

Based on Williams Joyce’s The Guardians of the Childhood book series and The Man in the Moon short film by Joyce, screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire and director Peter Ramsay present a fun and adorable holiday film that kids of most ages should love.  I feel that because of the content, some adults and older children may scoff and mock how cutesy the material is.  As for myself, a kid at heart, I had trouble finding fault in this darling movie that, in my opinion, doesn’t get too carried away with its sweetness.  The characters created are wonderfully humorous, creatively realized and each has his/her own endearing qualities.  As a villain, Pitch Black appears dark and somewhat benign, but it is just as well.  I’m sure the filmmakers didn’t want to scare away the little children.

What he lacks in appearance though, Jude Law certainly makes up for it with his outstanding voice work.  He flawlessly brings to life this troublesome, wicked, and sometimes sympathetic villain.  I completely forgot that Alec Baldwin voiced the Santa character, because he perfectly alters his voice nearly unrecognizably, sounding almost like actor Billy Connolly speaking with a Russian accent.  I also love the panache that Hugh Jackman brings to his work as the Easter Bunny.  Lindsay-Abaire writes him some hilarious lines that he delivers to great comic effect.  Chris Pine and Isla Fisher also perform well in their more straightforward roles.

One might ask why this film falls into the last slot in my top animated movie list of 2012.  I would have to say that this story lacks the depth and pith present in all of the other films this year. This movie simply offers fun entertainment to help spark the imaginations of children and teaches a basic lesson, albeit one taught by many other movies before it. Nevertheless, l heard the children at the screening laughing and eating it all up.  I have to admit that I too enjoyed it as it brought back fun memories of childhood, celebrating Christmas, Easter, and the loss of a tooth. It also took me back to a time where as a kid, my imagination was limitless.  Just thinking about it makes me happy and warm inside. I recommend seeing this highly lovable movie on the big screen, but don’t bother with the 3D as it is not necessary whatsoever.  Oh and stick around for some fun extras during the closing credits.

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