Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rise of the Guardians

The hampered and manic Rise of the Guardians establishes the very best and very worst skill set in distributor DreamWorks Animation.  The best, which comes from the accomplished likes of Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon in which the studio, built on the grubby green shoulders of Shrek, focuses on story over sight gag or easy self referential pop.  The worst lies in a seeming lack of confidence on relying on story alone, and the need to pepper with such busy antics it takes away the gentle pleasures that may have lied ahead.  Like a sugar addled kid with an already too hyped-up ADD disorder, Rise of the Guardians clutters its simple and humble holiday offerings by appeasing to whomever and appealing to no one in particular.  Frame after frame of the beautifully animated, nicely 3-D rendered wintery template is too cluttered to be enjoyed, too swift to relish, and too arbitrary to matter.  Based on the children's book, The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce, adapted by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) and directed by art director Peter Ramsey, Rise of the Guardians feels pitched and conceived with mixed signals and proffers the mixed bag effect on nearly every beat.

Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) is a twinkly imp who knows nothing of his past, or of why he is what he is-- a mischievous force of nature who nips under noses of the young.  He's a prankster, and also an invisible who knows not but what the man in the moon has bestowed upon him.  He's chosen to be, in lieu of a more operative word, the one in a matter of crisis.  Pine, a gifted actor and certainly charted for wonderful things as captain of the Starship Enterprise, has all the wrong vocal qualities for Jack, there's little sense of danger or inquisitiveness, but more a labored cadence that reads more theatrical than enchanting.  The guardians of the namesake refer to Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman, the keeper of the keys and protectors of children, or other lies our parents once told us.  Here they are real and in real danger.   The danger is the power of disbelief.  According to Rise of the Guardians, those same silly tales that kept the are childhood in check is what keeps the calming order to the world.  The power of a child's lack of belief in the creatures of the night that bring out their dreams, or their Christmas presents, Easter eggs and quarters for loose teeth, makes the guardians disappear altogether and wander invisibly like Jack, or Pitch (voiced by Jude Law), the films interrupted Boogieman.

Santa, known as North (voiced by Alec Baldwin) is a jolly, naughty\nice mixture of Russian descent and full sleeve tattoos.  He's kind of the ring leader of the guardians, if only due in stature from the kids below.  Missing is the "ho, ho, ho" merriment, replaced with a gleeful stance of badassery.  The Easter Bunny (voiced by Hugh Jackman) is a six foot tall Aussie stereotype whose secret weapon is his, um, boomerang, alongside a temperamental and nearly self-deprecating disposition.  Tooth (voiced by Isla Fisher), is a pixie, as well a master of efficiency as her and her follower faeries travel and chart the missing teeth of the children the world.  The most inventive creature is the Sandman, a voiceless and powerful guardians, and conductor of the childhood dreams.  Communicating through shape-shifting and conjuring, Sandy is easily the most powerful guardian, and the one that Pitch strikes for first by infiltrating the soothing dreams with devilish nightmares.  To the surprise of all of the guardians, the man in the moon picks Jack Frost to help the guardians in their time of peril.

There's bits of charm and twinkles of delight in Rise of the Guardians, but the film is at once too eager to please and not self assured enough to rely on the simplicities of its narrative.  The film beats too quickly and jets from action sequence to action sequence and even in slight moments is too busy to focus on the pleasurable animation and the decent quality 3-D novelty.  Lots craft and consideration was surely put into the animation of the guardians, each wildly colorful and imaginatively and distinctively designed (Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo Del Toro served as a producer), but the film never lets us soak any of it up and enjoy it for a moment.  It's too busy trying to be everything, it quickly dilutes into nothing.  C

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...