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