Blame it on the Bo­gey

Don’t be put off by the ti­tle – this Dream­works Christ­mas an­i­ma­tion is a com­fort­ing con­co­tion, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS ★★★ Di­rected by Peter Ram­sey. Voices of Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Hugh Jack­man, Chris Pine, Isla Fisher, Dakota Goyo G cert, gen­eral re­lease, 97 min AT THE RISK of en­cour­ag­ing Hol­ly­wood’s baser in­stincts, one is forced to won­der whether the mak­ers of this en­durable fam­ily an­i­ma­tion have missed a trick with the ti­tle. The un­for­tu­nate thing sounds like a study of in­surance sup­pli­ers or lib­eral Bri­tish news­pa­pers. Where’s the plug for Christ­mas? Santa Claus vs the Bo­gey­man feels more saleable.

Any­way, Rise of the Guardians turns out to be a per­fectly ser­vice­able at­tempt to re-en­gage with var­i­ous mytho­log­i­cal phe­nom­ena. Santa Claus en­lists the help of an in­se­cure Jack Frost, a creep­ily in­gen­u­ous Sand­man, an an­noy­ingly perky Tooth Fairy and a some­what blokeish Easter Bunny to de­feat the on­go­ing schemes of a resur­gent Bo­gey­man.

Large parts of it make no sense what­so­ever. De­spite hav­ing his ori­gins in a Turk­ish saint and spend­ing most of his time at the North Pole, Santa Claus – voiced by the proudly Ir­ish-Amer­i­can Alec Baldwin – speaks with some­thing like a Rus­sian ac­cent. Hugh Jack­man makes an Aus­tralian of the Bunny. At least the Bo­gey­man doesn’t hit any jar­ring notes: all vil­lains are, of course, posh English­men, and Jude Law oils his way through the di­a­logue with gram­mar-school gusto.

More­over, the scheme to rid the uni­verse of evil leg­ends, while al­low­ing the vir­tu­ous ones to thrive, risks im­part­ing an un­sus­tain­able im­bal­ance into the fan­tasy life: it’s cheat­ing to ask that kids be­lieve in the good fairies and sug­gest they dis­miss the evil trolls.

And (yet) an­other thing: since when has the Sand­man been such a good guy? Doesn’t he fling grit in blame­less kids’ faces?

Oh well. The Dream­Works pro­duc­tion is car­ried off with im­pres­sive de­grees of pro­fes­sion­al­ism. This ver­sion of Christ­mas does look a lit­tle like that found in the win­dows of up­mar­ket de­part­ment stores – all soft fab­rics and ra­dioac­tive snow – but it is un­de­ni­ably se­duc­tive and com­fort­ing. Many of the jokes at the cor­ner of the screen are price­less – watch out for the pointy elves in par­tic­u­lar.

Still, it would have made 20 per cent more cash if they had got the ti­tle right. Ho, ho, ho.

Santa, Jack and Bunny plot strat­egy in Rise of the Guardians

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