I think that the requisite family Christmas film is a staple of Hollywood and has become something of a tradition in America. Every year, people get together as families and, quite often, they will go to the movies in a large group to enjoy watching the colorful and safe features wash over them. However, this year there seems to be a severe lack of Holiday related material for families to go see. Oh sure, they have plenty of films for grown ups this year (Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, and my personal favorite Les Miserables among them) but we don't have much like Happy Feet Too, The Polar Express, or Arthur Christmas. However, there is one film that...while not featuring a winter Holiday setting...features one of the best loved Holiday figures in history as a butt-kicking dude. Yes friends, Santa doesn't just give presents at Christmas...he also swings swords like a beast. Let's all learn a little about the Guardians of Childhood as we witness the Rise of the Guardians.
It is a few days until Easter and all the preparations for it seem to be going swimmingly, particularly for St. North (Santa Claus for those not in the know) who is enjoying the coming spring by relaxing and making elaborate movable ice sculptures. However, a disturbance on the globe showing all the children who believe in fantastic beings makes North nervous. It would seem that Pitch, the Boogeyman, has returned to Earth and North is anxious to know his purpose. He calls together the other three Guardians of Childhood, E. Aster Bunny, The Tooth Queen, and The Sandman, to discuss what is to be done about Pitch. They look to The Man in the Moon for guidance and he informs them that the time has come for them to take in a new guardian in the form of Jack Frost. Jack has been enjoying hundreds of years of pranks and fun with children by causing snow days and making ice that causes people to fall. He also has a tendency to throw snowballs at children and making them feel full of mischief. He is not interested in all at being a Guardian as it requires a great deal more responsibility than he is willing to give. However, once Pitch's purpose is revealed, he feels as though he must help to protect the children and to find out who he used to be. Pitch is planning to turn all the dreams of the world's children into nightmares and also plans to steal their memories of childhood by stealing their teeth from the Tooth Palace. Soon, children everywhere begin to stop believing in the Guardians and they begin to fade from existence. Will Jack tip the scale in their favor or will Pitch destroy them all?
As I said, none of this film takes place during the Holidays but I feel that due to it's heavy reliance on snow and winter as well as a featured role for Santa Claus, it makes the cut. Rise of the Guardians continues the 'dark kids film' revival started with Harry Potter 10 years ago and continued through several others and I really hope it ushers in a whole new flood of them. My favorite movies growing up were always the ones that skewed a bit darker...like The Neverending Story and Sleeping Beauty. The current trend of sweet and syrupy, while it has it's place, has never sat as well with me. This film rectifys that by making a villain that is genuinely scary, "killing" a beloved protagonist early on, and seriously facing the possibility of spoiling our magical holidays for all time. It is a necessary film for children, I believe, to keep them aware that not every thing and everyone is safe out there. There is evil and there are bad people...but there are also good people and hope that triumphs over evil. It's a very healthy message and one I fully support. I also rather enjoyed the theme of "belief" that is much less heavy handed a message than it was in say, The Polar Express. Here, it is not a child that needs to keep believing (though that is an important plot point) but Jack himself who desires the feeling of being believed in. That is a very nice switch from the usual cliche and it helps make "believe in magic" as a theme a little less cliche. Check this one out if you haven't already, you and your kids will love it.