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On a frigid winter’s night,
A boy arises from the ice.
He can’t remember anything,
But he can fly without a wing
And play with ice, but at a price:
No one sees him or his plight.
Years go by, and poor Jack Frost,
Who has not gained his memory back,
Causes blizzards, ice, and snow.
None believe in Jack Frost, though.
One day, Jack’s thrown in a sack,
And, through a portal, he is tossed.
Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy,
Easter Bunny and Sandman,
The Guardians of Childhood,
Protecting kids both bad and good,
Have summoned Jack to help their plan
And join their group so legendary.
The Boogeyman, Pitch Black’s returned
To threaten children everywhere.
The Moon has chosen Jack to be
A Guardian, surprisingly.
Jack doesn’t care for such fanfare
And tells them all he’s unconcerned.
Nonetheless, Jack tags along
When Tooth is raided by bad dreams
That Pitch has sent, so that the sprite
Cannot fulfill her rounds that night.
As morning gleams, to kids it seems
Their hopes for fairy gifts were wrong.
Tooth reveals kids’ memories
Are hidden in their pearly whites.
So Jack thinks, if they stop Pitch fast,
The teeth he stole will show Jack’s past.
The latter night, the whole team fights
To gather teeth, which one boy sees.
The Sandman falls to Pitch’s blade,
And, though they all help to prepare
For Easter, Pitch beguiles Jack
By giving him his ivories back,
And fills the hare with great despair
By crushing all the eggs he made.
Children round the world begin
To think our heroes are not real.
Their powers fade as Pitch’s grow,
And they cannot defeat the foe.
Pitch seals the deal with evil zeal,
Finds a hole, and drops Jack in.
There Jack opens up his tooth
And sees his boyhood way back when.
He fell and drowned beneath the lake,
For his fretting sister’s sake,
He saved her then, can save again,
And learns his purpose with this truth.
Helping children not to grieve,
The Guardian’s efforts start to pay.
Sandman returns to beat up Pitch,
On whom the tables start to switch.
His fears that day drag him away,
And all the kids can now believe.

Another box-office disappointment on the list, Rise of the Guardians turns the most beloved characters of childhood imagination into a legendary A-Team. The CGI animation and voice acting are excellent, and the filmmaker’s own imaginations run wild with clever concepts applied to explain the “secrets” of these mythical Guardians. Such innovations include an army of hummingbird-like fairies to gather teeth for the Tooth Fairy, wormhole-producing snow globes to justify Santa’s one-night travel around the earth, and magical “tunnels” summoned by the Easter Bunny as if he had an Aperture portal gun. All these concepts and the fantastical worlds of the various characters are introduced at such a rapid pace most of the film just washes over the viewer, creating a sense of wonder, the obvious goal of the entire film.

I’ll admit that, for the most part, the climax seems to repeat what came before, and, by then, the prolonged scenes of “wonder” start to drag. After the poignant revelation of Jack’s tragic backstory, the action and wonder seem recycled from previous scenes, with the exception of Pitch being dragged to hell(?), a la Ghost. It also falls prey to a cliché I notice in a lot of movies, particularly animated ones: the he’s-dead-no-wait-never-mind conceit involving the Sandman. The most glaring fault, though, is that it completely ignores the true meaning of Easter and Christmas, mentioning “hope” and little else. Granted, the Man in the Moon stands in for God in many scenes and this is a secular film, but it seemed obvious that the filmmakers were trying to step around that elephant in the room.

Though the Tooth Fairy fares best in this regard, Rise of the Guardians creates a version of these characters, not the iconic version that it might have been. Still, with some funny lines, impressive animation, and that all-important foundation of wonder, it’s a worthy family film that should have performed better in theaters than it did.

Best line: (Santa) “Merry Christmas!”  (Easter Bunny) “Happy Easter!”  (Tooth Fairy) “And don’t forget to floss!”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 5
Entertainment: 5
Visual Effects: 9
Originality: 4
Watchability: 5
Other (ending drags) -4
TOTAL: 29 out of 60

Tomorrow: #325: Doctor Dolittle (1967)

© 2014 S. G. Liput