Review: 'Guardians' a lively 3-D storybook spree
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Bunnymund, voiced by Hugh Jackman, left, and North, voiced by Alec Baldwin in a scene from "Rise of the Guardians." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A very odd assortment of mythical childhood figures, some of them afflicted with severe emotional insecurities and inferiority complexes, are thrown together as an unlikely set of action heroes in "The Rise of the Guardians," an attractively designed but overly busy and derivative mishmash of kid-friendly elements.
A sort of Justice League or Avengers equivalent made up of the fearsome team of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost, this final DreamWorks Animation production set to be distributed by Paramount will play in a predictably agreeable and profitable fashion to small fry but will skew young despite the presence of an excellent voice cast. The world premiere took place Oct. 10 at the Mill Valley Film Festival in advance of the Nov. 21 commercial bow.
Based on the book series "Guardians of Childhood" by William Joyce, as well as on the author's short film "The Man in the Moon," the script by David Lindsay-Abaire (Robots, Rabbit Hole) plays fast and loose with these legendary fixtures of childhood, attaching to them all sorts of neuroses, feelings of inadequacy and the sense, or threat, of being ignored. Some might find this tack delightfully mischievous, but it's just as easy to reject as ridiculous the notion that Jack Frost — a free spirit very much like Peter Pan who can fly around anywhere he wants — suffers from an emotional trauma he suffered hundreds of years earlier.
This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, left, and Tooth, voiced by Isla Fisher in a scene from "Rise of the Guardians." (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks Animation)
Perhaps the most readily amusing of the gang is Santa, or, as he is more geographically named here, North. A muscular powerhouse rather than a fatso, North has heavily tatted forearms and, as wonderfully voiced by Alec Baldwin, sports a distinctive Russian accent not inappropriate to the proximity of that country to his palatial mountainside workshop. Also gathering here are the rangy and rascally E. Aster Bunnymund (an excellent Hugh Jackman), the hummingbird-like Tooth (or Tooth Fairy, delightfully rendered by Isla Fisher), the mute and tubby spinner of gold Sandman and, ultimately, Jack (a fine Chris Pine), who has wandered the globe alone for centuries and feels woefully unrecognized compared to the others because he has no special day or occasion to make an imprint on the lives of children.