A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rise of the Guardians is sort of like The Avengers with childhood icons: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Sandman. There's lots of action and some mild violence revolving around the menacing bad guy Pitch Black, who turns children's dreams into nightmares with his cavalry of scary stallions (some scenes may feel more intense in the movie's 3-D version). (Spoiler alert!) One Guardian is destroyed but comes back to life at the end of the movie. There's some insulting language like "coward" and "selfish" and "go suck an egg," and in a flashback, a main character drowns but transforms rather than dying. Whether they personally believe in these characters or not (and the nontraditional way they're portrayed here could get some of them wondering...), kids will root for the Guardians as they fight the forces of chaos and despair.
What's the story?
Based on the books by author/illustrator William Joyce, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS follows Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), a carefree immortal figure who creates winter fun for children who don't really believe in him. Everything changes when Pitch Black (Jude Law) rallies his nightmare forces to cause worldwide despair and make children stop believing in the Guardians of Childhood: Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman. When the Man in the Moon tells the existing Guardians that Jack Frost has been chosen to join them, they must convince him to take up the cause before Pitch can snuff out the light of hope in every child of the world.
Is it any good?
Rise of the Guardians (not to be confused with Legends of Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole) is an exquisitely crafted 3-D adventure. It has an ingenious plot and surprisingly substantive messages that make it just as appropriate for tweens/teens who are still into animation as for younger elementary-aged audiences. The voice performances are all fantastic. Baldwin is hilarious (and nearly unrecognizable) as a tough, tattooed Santa who can wield two swords one moment and play with his workshop's toys (made not by elves but by yetis!) the next. The Easter Bunny (Jackman, for once using his native Aussie accent) is a strapping buck rabbit (but never call him a kangaroo), and Fisher's Tooth Fairy is lovely and amusingly obsessed with teeth.
As the contemplative Jack Frost, Pine nearly reprises some of the characteristics of his young Captain Kirk in Star Trek -- both characters are impulsive loners who don't know how to work on a team until they come into their own and spring into action. The movie's visuals are dazzling (especially in each of the Guardians' headquarters), the dialogue funny, and the threat from the villain real and disturbing (and wow, Law has a creepy accent). It's such a refreshing treat to see an animated film so thoughtfully made that didn't come from Pixar. Director Peter Ramsey has made an impressive, imaginative fantasy where the wonder of childhood reigns supreme.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of childhood beliefs and memories in the story. How are the characters who believe in these childhood heroes the ones who ultimately save the day? What's lost when kids stop believing?
How are the depictions of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy different than in other childhood films/stories?
What does Santa mean when he tells Jack he has to find his "center"? Do you think real people have a "center" that dictates what they're passionate about and how they act?
- In theaters: November 21, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: March 12, 2013
- Cast: Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher
- Director: Peter Ramsey
- Studio: DreamWorks Animation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and some mildly scary action
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.