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Rise of the Guardians PosterThe benefit of being the most prolific major animation studio in the world is that you can hit a range of demographics in a relatively short period of time. Just a few weeks ago Dreamworks gave us the high energy craziness and slapstick of Madagascar 3, late last year they releases Puss in Boots a character comedy aimed to franchise fans, but now is the turn of something more grand and earnest and the big animated film of the Christmas season.

Adapted from The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce, the concept of Rise of the Guardians has been compared to The Avengers. The story partners a group of popular childhood characters, namely Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman, as the spiritual defenders of children worldwide. When the nightmarish Pitch threatens to engulf children’s dreams with nightmares they enlist the help of Jack Frost. The story is all about the power of believing in these characters and moves at an exciting pace from one set piece to another as the Guardians battle desperately to thwart Pitch’s plans to destroy that faith one character at a time.

The plot itself misses a few ingredients. Unlike Shrek there’s little irony in the presentation of the fantasy elements and the emotional sincerity of the film’s slightly clichéd message doesn’t quite hit the balance Disney has been routinely nailing for decades. Still it’s a solid good versus evil tale and the character work is excellent. Something unexpected is done with all the iconic characters, Jack Frost is a hoody-wearing teenager one act of vandalism away from an ASBO, the Easter Bunny is a boomerang wielding Ozzie, but it’s this film’s interpretation of Santa as a tattooed Russian-accented guy called North that pleases the most. But the well-judged characters are not the best thing about the film.

In my review of Brave I said that the new benchmark for CG animation had been set but Rise of the Guardians stands as a serious contender to that crown. The film is stuffed with the magic that can only be achieved in this medium and makes the most dazzling use of light and particles. The quick-paced action set-pieces are all eye-openers and every aspect of the design is absolutely top quality. This is certainly the prettiest film Dreamworks has ever made and is worth seeing just for visuals alone. Think Merida’s hair was a triumph? Well there’s a little girl in this film with hair that could give her a run for her money.

Verdict

A spirited and sincere celebration of childhood innocence that looks just fantastic.

4

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