Rise of the Guardians (2012)

(On TV, February 2016) Given my advancing age and perennial lack of coolness, I’m not really allowed to grumble and complain about the entertainment served to kids these days. But I can’t help it: While I approached Rise of the Guardians with the best intentions, something annoyed me about its Jack Frost protagonist and his portrayal as a super-kewl rebellious character (who, admittedly, learns better). It feels straight from the Big Corporate Book of Pre-teen Cultural Appropriation, and cheapens what was otherwise an interesting premise for a movie. The basic idea that various mythical figures (Santa Claus, Easter Rabbit, The Sandman, The Tooth Fairy) band together to protect kids from evil forces is interesting in its own public-domain-mash-up fashion. Elements of the characterization (Claus as a battle-hardened lumberjack figure, Sandman as old and mute) are interesting, and while the character design is a bit off-putting, there’s some invention to the film. But then walks in Jack Frost, all attitude and myopic narcissism, and he’s presented as an insufferable hero well before he gets to understand the limits of his initial personality. It doesn’t help that the film itself has the rote quality of 2010s animated film: loud action sequences (maybe a bit too scary for kids) set alongside too-busy world building. There’s probably a song or two in there as well, but Rise of the Guardians slips a bit too quickly out of mind to be sure. While not a bad film per se (even limiting ourselves to kids’ animated movies, there’s a lot worse out there), it’s a disappointment: the lead character is an irritant, and the result doesn’t seem to come close to the potential suggested by the premise.

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