BRINGING children to the cinema on a seasonal holiday weekend can be a bit of a tortuous affair.
Given that most studios are playing catch-up with Pixar when putting together their slate of films made for a younger audience, there can be some horribly disappointing experiences, not just for the kids.
There can be the awful (any film with the word “Alvin” in the title), the mediocre (too many to mention) and the just downright odd (ParaNorman — a bazillion miles from the promise of its trailers).
Equally, the experience for a parent can go between sleeping for 90 minutes, trying not to leave the theatre traumatised with the infantalised scripts and hyperkinetic editing that passes for story and character development, or suffering permanent ocular damage from the obligatory and unnecessary 3D.
Occasionally, however, you get a huge surprise. That certainly happened when I saw Rise Of The Guardians last weekend.
My expectations were confounded from the outset, with beautiful character design and a tale filled with fun and wonder that should be on every kids’ Christmas list.
The movie is essentially The Avengers for kids, with superheroes of childhood (the titular Guardians) Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and The Sandman setting out to battle the dark influences of Pitch Black, an incarnation of The Boogeyman, as he attempts to re-establish fear and doubt as currencies for childhood by making the children of the world lose their faith in the Big Four.
Joining the Guardians is Jack Frost, who Santa calls on to help their cause, but who cannot be seen in the tangible world as kids don’t believe in him enough.
The story is an origins story for Jack Frost himself, and his journey to believing in himself so that others can do the same, and that is just as it should be – a good story very well told.
The screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on the books by William Joyce, is filled with heart and packed with ideas, bypassing the need for convoluted backstories for the Guardians as they are already so ingrained in our collective consciousness.
That presumption allows us to dive straight into the story and credits the audience with a degree of intelligence which is pretty refreshing in current children’s cinema.
There is a whole lot of fun to be had in the character design and voicing, with Hugh Jackman’s Aussie Easter Bunny providing the biggest laughs, while Alec Baldwin’s Soviet Santa brings a fresh take to the presence of the big man.
The absence of schmaltz, along with the presence of a tangible threat that affects the group dynamic for some of the duration of the movie, makes this an almost old-fashioned film, in that there is a genuine nod to the realities of life, loss and growth – all of which are powerful and important lessons for a kids’ movie.
It might not appear at first sight the most appealing of the movies for the season, but there is a core message and stylish look and feel that makes Rise Of The Guardians a whole lot more than the sum of its parts.