Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Video review: "Rise of the Guardians"

The rap on “Rise of the Guardians” sure is nasty.

It didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award for animated feature, while lackluster fare like “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” did. And DreamWorks Animation recently announced layoffs after “Rise of the Guardians” underperformed at the box office. (Though it made $300 million worldwide, which is hardly bomb territory.)
Don’t buy the bunk. “Guardians” is easily the best animated movie from last year.

It might seem silly and superficial at first: Santa Claus, Jack Frost and other holiday icons band together into a super-powered group to battle evil – think “The Avengers” in rainbow-hued costumes. But they’ve got butt-kicking superpowers; for instance, the Easter Bunny is now a martial arts expert, while Santa wields a pair of swords.

Also on the team are the Tooth Fairy and Sandman. They’re up against Pitch Black, aka the bogeyman, who wants to blanket the world in darkness and bad dreams.

The animation is wonderfully detailed and crisp, and the action scenes well-staged. Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Ilsa Fisher make up a terrific voice cast.

But what pushes “Rise of the Guardians” over the hump from good to great is its surprising emotional resonance. There’s a great subtext about finding your place in the world as seen through Jack Frost’s struggle to learn the origin of his powers.

This one’s a family-friendly treat.

Extras are decent, bending more toward the fun than the substantial. The DVD comes with a featurette on the cast and crew, filmmakers’ commentary track and “Sandy’s Dream Guide,” which helps interpret your dreams. There’s also a DVD-ROM function with printable Eastern-themed egg holders and coloring sheets.

Upgrade to the Blu-ray edition, and you add “Behind the Magic,” a comprehensive making-of documentary, plus a feature on author William Joyce. You also get two interactive games: “Rock, Paper, Scissors with Sandy” and “Jack Frost Snowball Showdown!”.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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