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Superhero Santa ready to save the day

11/29/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

“Rise of the Guardians” is playing in movie theaters.
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are evil-fighting Super Friends. Who knew?

DreamWorks’ “Rise of the Guardians,” directed by Peter Ramsey, imagines Santa and other fantasy favorites as superheroes charged with keeping safe the children of the world. The Guardians were put together by the never-seen Man in the Moon, who is sort of the team’s Nick Fury.

With characters like the excitable Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher) and the sleep-inducing Sandman, “Guardians” may appear to be a movie for preschoolers. But there are some good action scenes, and the story has its moments. Even those old enough to tie their shoes may get caught up in it.

The leader of the Guardians is Santa (Alec Baldwin), who goes by the name “North.” He’s not exactly the jolly guy that kids line up to see at the mall. He has a thick Russian accent, wields a sword and has “naughty” and “nice” tattooed on his arms. This Santa does have cutesy elves at his workshop, but they’re useless dingbats. The creatures handling the toy-making duties are yetis that look like Chewbacca, if drawn by Dr. Seuss.

But who has time to worry about toys when there is danger afoot? Santa and his friendly rival, the acerbic Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), lead the battle against the villainous Pitch (Jude Law). Pitch, aka “the bogeyman,” feeds on fear. This is not the most original concept (“Monsters Inc.” used it, as has every sci-fi series that has lasted longer than a season), but it’s helped by cool visuals — swarms of swirling black dust that turn children’s dreams into nightmares.

Assisting the good guys is a new recruit, Jack Frost (Chris Pine), who might be described as Peter Pan with a freeze ray. He’s a magical youth with a mischievous side, and he’s loved by kids — or would be, if he could be seen. Unlike the other heroes, Jack is invisible, the result of kids not believing he’s real.

“Guardians” is based on a book series by William Joyce, whose creations have often been turned into computer-animated entertainment (“Rolie Polie Olie,” “Robots,” “Meet the Robinsons” and the Oscar-winning short “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”). Joyce, whose artwork has been exhibited at the Akron Art Museum, knows how to create dazzling eye candy, and “Guardians” has some beautifully rendered scenes. The Easter Bunny’s pastel-colored home base is a standout.

The movie benefits from great voicework from Law, who adds a sophisticated touch to his character. For the Easter Bunny, Jackman ratchets up his Australian accent to the ninth degree, while Baldwin’s Russian accent is as heavy as a Siberian snowfall. With his accent, Baldwin’s “Ps” sound like “Bs,” which wouldn’t be worth mentioning if the villain’s name — the one Santa keeps speaking of — weren’t “Pitch.”

The movie, currently in theaters, is rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action.

Four Stars (out of four)

 

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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