'Rise of the Guardians:' What the Critics Are Saying

10:53 PM PST 11/24/2012 by Aaron Couch

THR's Todd McCarthy described the film as “an attractively designed but overly busy and derivative mishmash of kid-friendly elements.”

Rise of the Guardians features a ragtag team of children’s stories staples including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman and Jack Frost, all of whom go on an adventure to keep children safe.

The DreamWorks Animation film features voice work from Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Chris Pine, and is expected to rake in $31 million or $32 million for its five-day Thanksgiving holiday opening, which would be a lower debut than recent films from the studio.

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From first-time director Peter Ramsey, the film is based on the Guardians of Childhood book series by William Joyce, as well as his short filmThe Man in the Moon.

Rise of the Guardians holds a 73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and below are what some of the critics had to say about the film.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy described the animated feature as “an attractively designed but overly busy and derivative mishmash of kid-friendly elements.”

McCarthy praised the work of Baldwin as North (Santa Clause), calling the character “perhaps the most readily amusing” of the bunch. But he noted the film's villain, Pitch (as in pitch black) isn't particularly original as he resembles Harry Potter's Voldemort.

Despite its shortcomings, McCarthy concluded: “The characters and settings are attractively designed, and the vocal performances have real color and a sense of fun that gently undercuts the treacly sincerity of certain obligatory kid-pandering moments.”

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In his three-star review, Chicago Sun-Time critic Roger Ebert called the film “a hyperkinetic 3-D action comedy, with the characters forever racing on Santa's sleigh, hurtling down chutes and zooming through tunnels that rework the same 3-D illusions over and over again.”

Ebert concluded though there was an audience for the film, it wasn’t him. “Still, let it be said that director Peter Ramsey and his art team have created a crisp, colorful fantasy world, sharper-edged than many feature-length children's cartoons,” Ebert wrote.

Time’s Mary Pols said she did not envy filmmakers tackling holiday themes, because it's a genre so full of films that it's hard to come up with an original idea. Pols did have some praise for the film, writing: “The character feels fresh and new, re-imagined as someone kids can relate to and ultimately (no spoilers) proves to have a bittersweet back story.”

But ultimately she concluded the film fell short: “The narrative choice, hand-to-hand combat and a showdown in the streets in order to save children from cynicism and non-believing, is ironic but hardly surprising; like most children’s movies, Rise of the Guardians mimics the patterns of adult entertainment. Where is the magic in that?”

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The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr wrote “while there are times when the plot is packed rather more densely than is strictly speaking necessary, there are moments of genuine magic scattered throughout the script. ... But what ultimately elevates the film above the ordinary is its extravagant visual imagination.”

New York Times critic A.O. Scott asked why adults sentimintalize childhood wonder about Santa Clause and other such characters, writing Rise of the Guardians “works so hard at celebrating wide eyes and naïve joy that it comes close to spoiling its own intermittent wonderfulness.” He added that “like so much animated entertainment these days, is by turns silly, maudlin and noisy, with just enough ingenuity to make you wish it were better.”

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