Review: See “Rise of the Guardians” for Enchanted Family Fun

If you’re looking for a fun family film this Thanksgiving holiday, you found it. No, it’s not Red Dawn, dads. Sorry.

Rise of the Guardians, new from DreamWorks and in theaters November 21, 2012, is the ticket for 90 minutes of enchanted animated family fun.

Like Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians has unexpected invasions, courageous resistance against impossible odds, and an inspiring call to dig deep to discover who you really are — come to think of it, it’s likely not much different at all except for the profanity, violence, etc. Yep, now that I think about it, Rise of the Guardians would definitely be the better choice for the family.

Because it’s based on the book Guardians of Children by William Joyce (and the short film “Man in the Moon” also by Joyce), you or the kids may have already encountered the tale before. I hadn’t, so it was all new, but still made sense to me.

It’s not a complicated plot. The story is a tried-and-true formula you’ve seen before — boy (Jack Frost — yes, the Jack Frost of fairy-tale fame and voiced by Chris Pine) flounders, trying to find his place in the world and get noticed for who he is — though he’s unsure of his “center.”

As expected, he meets unexpected challenges when introduced to the Guardians, a small band of fairy-tale friends you’ve encountered long ago — the Sandman, think Danny DeVito made of sand, but quieter; the Easter Bunny, a six-foot, Aussie rabbit with an attitude (Hugh Jackman); the Tooth Fairy, Tinkerbell, but sweeter (Isla Fisher), and North, Santa with tattoos and elves who don’t actually make anything (Alec Baldwin).  They all serve on behalf of the mysterious, and strangely distant, Man in the Moon.

We’re told early on that if enough kids stop believing in them — well, you know it’s not good. And you know what’s coming. But that’s OK, because you’re kids and grand-kids likely don’t.

Jack’s dilemma comes from having been put on the earth by the Man in the Moon for some purpose he has yet to discover. When offered a challenge that could define him, he does what most kids do — he runs away in fear. Or he would, except his new friends hold the key to his own fuzzy past. So he tags along for selfish reasons. True to the genre, Jack’s selfish fight against the bad guy — Pitch Black, he thrived in the Dark Ages (Jude Law) — causes greater trouble for everyone until Jack learns his lesson in true humility and sacrifice.

Rise of the Guardians is the perfect film for kids from ages 4 to 10 to see with parents and grandparents. Pre-teens and teens might even join in the laughs with you — and there will plenty of laughs throughout — but only if their friends aren’t around.

As a father of six and a man of faith, I didn’t see anything objectionable, unless, of course, the Tooth Fairy hasn’t shown up for a while in your house. Then you might have some explaining to do. There is one scene where a fairy-tale figure seems to meet an untimely demise that might give very young children reason to cry, but you can tell them it will be all right in the end (Tell them the Movie Fairy told you.) If you have a few with highly active imaginations, you might want to give the kids a little disclaimer about not trying some of Jack’s stunts at home.

Aside from frolicking family fun, Rise of the Guardians can be a terrific conversation starter about some stuff that matters in life. As they watch Jack wrestle with his inner purpose, they might be moved to ask questions like Jack asks of the unseen Man in the Moon: “You put me here. The least you could do is tell me why.” And I, for one, think it’s great for kids to begin exploring their unique talents and gifts at an early age to begin to find their own “center.”

As an extra bonus, the film reminds even us adults that each of us has a unique set of strengths, a destiny that only we can fulfill — if only we’re willing to keep believing and sacrifice to achieve it. Sure it’s simple and somewhat schmaltzy. But in these tough times, we could all use a reason to come together for some enchanted but simple family fun.

And that’s something to be thankful for.

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