Childhood, uninterrupted in glorious 3D?
Rise of the Guardians
Direction: Peter Ramsey
Actors: Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman
Rating: *** 1/2
Not to be confused with Legend of the Guardians, the cartoon about the owls of Ga'Hoole released a couple of years ago, this 3D animated adventure is actually a bit like Avengers Assemble for the kiddie brigade.
Scripted by Pulitzer-prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole), the festive-themed romp assembles a team of fantastical childhood legends.
It kicks off with Jack Frost, the invisible teenager (Pine) with magical snowmaking powers. He is approached by the other four mythical guardians - Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Sandman - and asked to join them in a crusade to protect the innocence of the world's children.
Together, the heroic quintet aims to vanquish a malevolent spirit (voiced in appropriately menacing tones by Jude Law) who is turning the wee-ones' dreams into nightmares.
African-American animator Peter Ramsey, making his feature film debut, conjures up a wondrous world which is quite unlike anything we've seen before. It's stuffed to bursting with playful effects, intricate sets and a roller-coaster tempo.
The movie occasionally resorts to elaborate back stories and slapstick shenanigans to drive the narrative forward. Jack Frost's identity crisis as well as his long-standing animosity with the Australian-accented Easter Bunny (Jackman) is resolved rather patly.
The wide-ranging voice cast includes Alec Baldwin as Father Christmas and Isla Fisher as the ethereal Tooth Fairy.
By contrast, both the golden-hued Sandman and the Man in the Moon never speak.
Even though Santa Claus isn't the principal character and the atmosphere is at times too dark and edgy for its target audience, Rise of the Guardians is likely to be a family favourite for the yuletide season.