Check out my review of the first book in the series RISE OF THE GUARDIANS was based on, THE MAN IN THE MOON, as well as today's review of THE SANDMAN!

I was lucky enough to score free passes to an advance 3-D Screening of Dreamworks' holiday blockbuster RISE OF THE GUARDIANS.  I've been looking forward to this movie since first hearing about it because I thought the first picture book in the series, THE MAN IN THE MOON, was brilliant and captivating. 

Interestingly, William Joyce has spent about 20 years developing his series and building the Guardians of Childhood franchise, creating picture books, chapter books, and now, movies.  Together with Dreamworks, he decided that he wanted RISE OF THE GUARDIANS to be an original movie with no book exactly telling its story.  He didn't want people comparing the movie to the book and saying one format was superior to the other, which is something often heard when books become movies.

The movie takes place after the books, when beloved characters such as Santa, the Toothfairy, the Easter Bunny, and The Sandman (all with actual names, of course) have long since sworn the Oath of the Guardians.  They were given their powers by the Man in the Moon (which isn't explained well in the movie, but looking at the ending credits, it seems as though a short film will be included with the movie upon its official release.  I'm hoping this is the case, since it adds an additional layer to the story!), and are the protectors of children across the world.  When Pitch, the Prince of Nightmares, decides to make kids believe in the boogieman and begins destroying dreams and distributing nightmares in their place, the Guardians must band together and accept a new Guardian into their midst, Jack Frost.
I think audiences will really connect with Jack Frost's plight.  He knows so little about his past, or why the Man in the Moon chose him to be a Guardian.  Children don't believe in him the way they do everyone else, and he struggles with his identity.  I loved watching the world through his eyes.  RISE OF THE GUARDIANS is truly Jack's story. 

My favorte aspect of the movie is the way beloved figures such as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are turned inside out and upside-down.  They are the characters we've known and loved over the years, yet with more depth.  When I first saw the previews, I was a little taken-aback by the fact that Santa had tattoos (though they ARE pretty cool) and seemed very angry.  Watching the movie, however, my fears were allayed.  He is still Santa Claus.  One of my favorite moments in the movie occurs early on in a scene between Santa and Jack, and the way Santa lights up and reveals why he's a Guardian is magical and heart-warming.  He is absolutely the Santa we know and love.  The reason he seems so angry in the trailers is due to the fact that Pitch is trying to destroy the hopes and dreams of children everywhere, and Santa is desperate to save them.  He's like a fiercely protective papa bear!
All of the other characters were well-designed as well.  The Easter Bunny is far from cute and fluffy (well, for the most part), with a crazy-fun way of traveling.  And I loved seeing where he lived and how he made his eggs, because how often do we see that?  I also loved seeing where the Tooth Fairy lived.  I never really thought about what she does with the teeth once she's collected them, but the answer was absolutely beautiful and captivating.  Plus, the Tooth Fairy is one of the most gorgeous-looking characters in the movie, with beautiful, colorful feathers that are almost as shiny as fish scales, and a hoarde of baby tooth fairies that remind me of hummingbirds!  I also liked the way the Sandman emoted rather than spoke his lines with his sand.  His role is integral to the movie, and I can see a lot of families buying the picture book about him after seeing this!
It's easy to see the Dreamworks influence throughout the movie as well.  The tone is more in-line with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON than it is MADAGASCAR or SHREK, with less potty humor and more depth.  There's an animated scene with the Easter Bunny towards the end that reminds me a lot of a scene with Puss in Boots.  Also, on a non-Dreamworks-related note, the little elves from Santa's workshop remind me of the minions from DESPICABLE ME, thrown in for some voiceless comic relief.
I thought the movie was adorable, thoughtful, and just plain fun.  Is it the best animated movie I've ever seen?  No.  It does, however, have a lot of heart and is nostalgic enough to bring a whimsical feeling to viewers of any age.  I'll definitely purchase this one when it comes out on Blu-Ray/DVD and house it proudly in my collection!

Take a peek at the trailer if you haven't already seen it:

What are your thoughts?  Are you planning to see this movie?


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