Because one hero just isn’t enough in this overstimulated age of “The Avengers,” “Rise of the Guardians” assembles a team of bedtime-story personalities, including Santa Claus (voiced by Alec Baldwin), the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher), the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman), and the speech-free Sandman. There’s also Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), who should be pleased that he beat Cupid and the St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun to this party, but is instead bummed out that so few kiddies believe in him.
Frost is chosen (by the Man in the Moon, natch) to join the established Guardians in their fight against Pitch Black (Jude Law), aka the Boogeyman, who’s also tired of having insufficient believers, and as a result, vows to fill the world with nightmares and strip children of their holiday-hero faith. Adapted by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire from a book series by William Joyce, “Guardians” certainly follows the bigger, better formula, striving to be the ultimate kids flick for any festive season, but it’s the animated formula that it follows way too closely.
There are far too many CGI toons content to unfold in a preordained manner, hitting all the usual narrative beats and leaving minimal room for surprise. There’s precious little urgency in “Guardians,” as Frost’s arc is dutifully by-the-numbers, and the requisite end-stage battle is overstuffed with all the usual “take that” quips (with Jackman’s native Aussie accent, the Easter Bunny is a wellspring of down-under clichés).
There’s some noteworthy imagery in the film, particularly Sandman and Pitch’s competing granular effects, which, in gold and black hues, respectively, envelop the land with their shifting shapes. It’s a better flourish than, say, the coolness factors given to old St. Nick, who’s all covered in tattoos and lives with Yetis. Sure, this film will give young viewers plenty to gawk at, and plenty more to envision when they close their eyes at night, but this year alone, “The Lorax” and “Brave” proved there are much better flicks on which to spend their allowances.
Two reels out of four
Now playing an area theaters
With “Skyfall” in release, everyone has Bond fever again, but they shouldn’t forget this rebooted alternative, which sees Jeremy Renner ably step into Matt Damon’s shoes to pilot a franchise that runs on grit and gumption. Playing a rogue agent trained in the same program as Jason Bourne, Aaron Cross (Renner) proves a worthy successor, and takes viewers on a wild introductory ride — with more sure to come. Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton also join the cast.
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