You make think that RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is family-friendly fantasy that recasts traditional cultural icons as superheroes, but in reality this is one scary flick – maybe not enough to send adults screaming from the theatres, but it could cause more than a few nightmares among younger viewers. You see, bad dreams are at the root of the villain’s plan: Pitch (otherwise known as the Boogey Man) wants to replace childhood dreams with nightmares. The only ones standing in his way are the Guardians of Childhood, whose latest recruit is the fun-loving but not particularly heroic Jack Frost. Can Santa and company stop a frightful onslaught of tsunami proportions that seeks to extinguish the light of childhood with the power of fear?
DreamWorks Animation – which minted a fortune by making animated fantasies that spoof and/or ridicule the traditional fairy tale foundation of the form – finally embrace its inner child, and the result is the company’s greatest film to date, even surpassing the virtues of KUNG FU PANDA and PUSS IN BOOTS. The 3-D animation is beautiful – no surprise there, the company has always had a handle on the technical stuff – what is surprising is that the story (which could have come across like THE AVENGERS – LITE) reaches deep into our collective unconscious to render an archetypal battle between the forces of Light and Darkness that is accessible to young viewers while still resonating with adults. On the simple plot level, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is about a group of superheroes banding together to fight the bad guy, but the film works on a far more sophisticated level than Joss Whedon’s tongue-in-cheek ode to geekdom: RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is really about protecting our childhood Sense of Wonder; fending off nightmares; resisting fear; nurturing simple joys, and embracing the call to a higher vocation.