“My eyes see the wonder in everything,” says North a.k.a. Santa (voiced by Alec Baldwin), explaining his gift to his unwilling protégé, Jack Frost (Chris Pine). So be it, but Rise of the Guardians fails to emit any of this wonder. Lacking a strong story and composed of broad caricatures, this DreamWorks Animation feature is less a unique snowflake and more a homogenous blizzard.
Based on the books by William Joyce, Jack Frost lives a lonely life, unseen by the children of the world, despite his ability to give them snow days and therein joy. His solitary life, however, turns collective when he's selected by the Man in the Moon to become an Immortal Guardian. Protectors of children’s dreams, he joins North, Bunny (Hugh Jackman), Tooth (Isla Fisher), and the Sand Man (a fat mute) to fight the villainous Pitch (Jude Law), who seeks to rob kids of their innocence.
After the refreshingly female-focused Brave and the beautiful tactile animation of ParaNorman, Rise of the Guardians operates in that forgettable realm of children movie: slight in story and adequate in animation. While the former features demonstrated that kids' films can appeal to youngsters while not talking down to them, here humour is reduced to inarticulate yelling and Yetis being mistreated. And while we’re no abominable snowman apologists, just as Rise of the Guardians fails to capture any sense of wonder, by the same token it evades real fear. Pitch (black, get it?) should inspire dread, but merely comes across as a Voldermort-lite, more parodic than petrifying.
Given the current economic crisis, an apparently impending apocalypse, and the general warring state of the world, a film dealing with the loss of innocence could have been touching, if not illuminating, for its target audience. In the end, Rise of the Guardians doesn’t rise to the occasion.