Rise Of The Guardians
Directed by Peter Ramsey. Voices of Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Dakota Goyo G cert, general release, 97 min
AT THE RISK of encouraging Hollywood’s baser instincts, one is forced to wonder whether the makers of this endurable family animation have missed a trick with the title. The unfortunate thing sounds like a study of insurance suppliers or liberal British newspapers. Where’s the plug for Christmas? Santa Claus vs the Bogeyman feels more saleable.
Anyway, Rise of the Guardians turns out to be a perfectly serviceable attempt to re-engage with various mythological phenomena. Santa Claus enlists the help of an insecure Jack Frost, a creepily ingenuous Sandman, an annoyingly perky Tooth Fairy and a somewhat blokeish Easter Bunny to defeat the ongoing schemes of a resurgent Bogeyman.
Large parts of it make no sense whatsoever. Despite having his origins in a Turkish saint and spending most of his time at the North Pole, Santa Claus – voiced by the proudly Irish-American Alec Baldwin – speaks with something like a Russian accent. Hugh Jackman makes an Australian of the Bunny. At least the Bogeyman doesn’t hit any jarring notes: all villains are, of course, posh Englishmen, and Jude Law oils his way through the dialogue with grammar-school gusto.
Moreover, the scheme to rid the universe of evil legends, while allowing the virtuous ones to thrive, risks imparting an unsustainable imbalance into the fantasy life: it’s cheating to ask that kids believe in the good fairies and suggest they dismiss the evil trolls.
And (yet) another thing: since when has the Sandman been such a good guy? Doesn’t he fling grit in blameless kids’ faces?
Oh well. The DreamWorks production is carried off with impressive degrees of professionalism. This version of Christmas does look a little like that found in the windows of upmarket department stores – all soft fabrics and radioactive snow – but it is undeniably seductive and comforting. Many of the jokes at the corner of the screen are priceless – watch out for the pointy elves in particular.
Still, it would have made 20 per cent more cash if they had got the title right. Ho, ho, ho.