Rise of the Guardians (2012)

Rise of the Guardians

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Peter Ramsey

Stars (voices): Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Isla Fisher

Runtime: 97 min

Tagline: Legends Unite.

Wait a minute, wait a minute! Who’s Jack Frost, again…? Is he that one guy that’s always nipping at everyone’s noses?

When a forgotten bogeyman from the Dark Ages called Pitch launches an assault of fear on earth, the Immortal Guardians are all called to fight off against him to maintain the innocence of children all over the world.

The beginning feels sort of like one student in high school is trying to write a report, but they’re having trouble organizing their thoughts. That being said, the beginning is an introduction to the characters which feels a bit disorganized. Though, after a small amount of time, it finds its pace and the story just gets better and better.
This is a great time of year to try to build up the spirits of children everywhere. This is brilliant because this time around, it is not all about Ole’ Saint Nicolas. Everyone gets their chance to shine in this. The Guardians are just great, and they give all the figures, that children believe in, the chance to show their flares.

There’s of course Santa Claus, but this time around he has a funky Russian-esque accent offered by the voicework of Alec Baldwin. He is pretty traditional looking, but he also seems pretty edgy because of his ‘Naughty’ and ‘Nice’ tattoos on his forearms. He offers some insight onto who’s actually making the toys at the North Pole. Apparently, it’s a bunch of Yeti’s, they only make the pointy-hatted elves think they’re making the toys. Who knew?

There’s also the Easter Bunny. Hop was the last Easter-themed flick, but the Guardians‘ Bunny makes the little Easter Bunny from Hop look very ordinary. Here, Hugh Jackman offers some great voicework to this character, and in the process he makes him Australian. He’s a six foot-two Easter Bunny that has a sweet boomarang, that makes him feel like he just stepped out of a video game.

There’s the Tooth Fairy, voiced by the beautiful Isla Fisher, who’s a mix between human and hummingbird. There’s also the mute Sandman (who isn’t voiced by anyone, the studio dodged a bullet casting this guy) who communicates with symbols and funny gestures. There isn’t any explanation necessary on what these two do. Though, this next character, you might need a little introduction to him.

The new Guardian in town is the wayward Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine). No, not anything like a snowman or Martin Short’s version of him. All Jack wants to do is cause snow days and havoc, but he wants to have a little fun while doing it. He constantly wonders of his true destiny, and he is a character that knows what it feels like to be invisible. Another character that knows what it feels like to be ostracized and forgotten is the film’s main antagonist, Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law).

Pitch is a jagged-toothed Bogeyman that wants to instill fear in the hearts of children everywhere. His main motivation of doing this is so he can teach the Immortal Guardians the feeling of loneliness and invisibility he has felt for hundreds of years. He wants to be the big guy on campus for once. Pitch’s main rivals are both Jack Frost and the Sandman. When Pitch steals Frost’s memory of a former life, Frost’s motivation is to retrieve this very valuable material. Frost is also on the fence about his destiny, and he relates to Pitch from time to time because he, too, knows what it feels like to be overlooked because of his juvenile behaviour. The main conflict between Sandy and Pitch is simple. The Sandman brings happy dreams to the children of the world, while Pitch brings dark nightmares. Sandy is obviously not very happy about this, and you won’t like him when he’s angry. However, these are not the only conflicts – the characters are all given their time to shine, so it never feels as if there is one primary character.

There was a concept that came to mind when both the characters of Pitch and Man on the Moon (the moon practically, it’s like God to the Guardians) were initially introduced. It brought to mind the concept of how Lucifer was cast out of Heaven by God, because he wanted to be the head honcho. A plot point that I attempted to predict is that Pitch may have once been a Guardian, but then he was cast down because he was turning evil. That’s just a thought that came to mind because of the good vs. evil forces.

The message is one of the finest in animated films this year: if you believe, it will overcome all fear. It’s greatly displayed in this family film.

Like Monsters, Inc. was with Pixar, this DreamWorks’ edgy children’s and family film. It’s a sort of strange concept that works pretty well. Pitch, the Bogeyman, is sometimes depicted so ominously, it might be a little too hard to handle for the smaller children. There is also some thematic material that can get quite dark. However, there is enough innocent humour to level it all out.

The 3D effects are sometimes gimmicky, but that’s okay. While it is sometimes gimmicky, there are also many cool effects that bring very inventive animation to life even more vibrantly.

Rise of the Guardians is a slightly flawed animated adventure that may have some deeply thematic material and action sequences that could be midly scary for small children. The main flaw is the beginning, because it feels disorganized – but it finds its pace soon enough. The story is wildly inventive, as are the alterations of the beloved Guardians. It’s a great thing to teach the kids this holiday season – don’t just believe in Santa Claus, believe in the other figures too, when their time of year comes around, at least.

80/100

Hop – A film review by Daniel Prinn

Hop

Release Date: April 1, 2011

Director: Tim Hill

Stars: Russell Brand (voice), James Mardsen, Kaley Cuoco

Runtime: 95 min

Tagline: Candy, Chicks and Rock ‘n’ Roll

The creators of Despicable Me give us Hop, a blend of CGI-animation and live-action. While it is a tastier film than Despicable Me, it doesn’t have a better plot, charm, or characters.

E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) is the teenage son of the Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie) and he will soon have that job passed down to him. Though, he doesn’t want to deliver Easter baskets to the children of the world, he really wants to become a professional drummer. He heads for the city where dreams come true, Hollywood (through a magic bunny hole). Fred O’Hare (James Mardsen) an out-of-work slacker, hits E.B. with his car. The bunny begs if he can stay with Fred for a while, and he reluctantly accepts, in hopes of it being just a dream that he’ll soon wake up from. In the process of them finding each other, they will have to find their own ways to become mature.

Hop is definitely a film that most children can enjoy, and even gave me a few laughs at the age of seventeen. The Playboy Mansion joke was pretty funny. It isn’t all charming, because I really only liked a few characters. I didn’t mind E.B., but his voice is just a little annoying – but he does offer a good message for kids, to follow your dreams and be yourself. Phil is pretty funny, though, he’s a fairly adorable little dancing chick. Fred was okay, too. The extended cameo by Hasselhoff was alright – and there was a nice pop culture reference to Knight Rider for adults, that most kids won’t understand.

The antagonists offered here make some scenes a bit crowded. There’s Fred’s family who doesn’t really believe in him (except his sister, Sam [played by Kaley Cuoco], who believes in him a little); and there’s the three Pink Berets who are the now Easter Bunny’s personal bodyguards, and are chasing after E.B. to bring him home; and then there’s a character who wants to take over as the Easter Bunny, I won’t reveal the character’s name for spoiler alert purposes, but it’s fairly obvious that they’re an antagonist from the get go.

There’s a bunch of silly rabbit play-on-word character names, like E.B. (acronym for Easter Bunny) and Fred’s last name, O’Hare.

The film stars James Mardsen, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins, Gary Cole, Tiffany Espensen, Chelsea Handler, David Hasselhoff; and with the voice talents of Russell Brand (which I couldn’t dub a talent, personally), Hugh Laurie, Hank Azaria and Django Marsh (as Young E.B.).

Hop offers a predictable plot, but a fairly good message for children; and many hit-and-miss characters, with some jokes even adults will enjoy. I would have liked to have enjoyed it more, but it was fairly bearable. It’s a little unfortunate that the biggest laugh for me was even before the film began, with two minions from Despicable Me doing a brief hilarious antic. It’s a film that I wouldn’t recommend to go out of your way to see, but it may be worth the watch if you caught it on TV. And it could make for a good Easter basket stuffer if you have kids.

55/100