The magic of a good idea is that when someone gets one, it seems like the most obvious and natural thing in the world. Superheroes are hot right now, and long may that continue. Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy… kids love those guys too, and they’ve been around even longer than Superman. The notion of rebranding, then, such beloved childhood icons as an Avengers-style collective, albeit one with a bit more holiday sparkle, is one of the many genius aspects of Rise of the Guardians (PG). How come no one thought of doing it before?
An irresponsible maker of mischief and slippery pavements, an instigator of snowball fights and a lonely, ghostly lad who no one believes in, Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine) is invited by the Man in the Moon to join the Guardians, protectors of childhood. Fuelled by the faith of kids around the world, their powers are threatened by Pitch (a.k.a. The Boogeyman), an icy purveyor of nightmares with the requisite British accent (Jude Law) and appropriately evil plan.
Only Jack, North (Alec Baldwin), Tooth (Isla Fisher), Bunny (Hugh Jackman) and the Sandman can save us, so long as the Guardians’ frosty new pal can learn to play well with others, and doesn’t get too distracted by a side quest involving his long-forgotten past…
Trust me, you will love this movie. There’s a spark of joy and innocent wonder at its core that makes you feel like it’s Christmas Day already. Besides that, it’s also incredible fun and really genuinely exciting, a rousing adventure with ingeniously orchestrated 3-D action.
The visuals too, are epic and detailed. Each hero has his own kingdom, and the scope is so impressive, it’s like a fairy tale Lord of the Rings. It’s funny too, not sappy, sentimental or kiddie, but genuinely warm and with enough edge to the humour to keep it knowing but never self-conscious.
Thoughtfully characterised with such invigorating flourishes of personality as Bunny’s Aussie sensibilities and North’s (a.k.a. Santa’s) Cossack stylings, this is a film that instantly wins you over and rewards you throughout. I even adored the silly elves in their Christmas tree costumes, and I’m a huge fan of Yetis now. Particularly Phil. There’s a marvellous score too, really spirited and full of feeling, from the reliably creative Alexandre Desplat. Maybe next year, after four nominations, he’ll finally win a richly-deserved Academy Award.
If you have kids, take them. If you don’t, go anyway. And don’t let the cheesy song over the end credits drive you away when it’s done, as there’s an additional minute of animated goodness that pops up before the end. Merry Christmas!
As a lifelong fan of Clint Eastwood, I’d happily spend a couple of hours watching him stand in a post office queue, glaring at the staff and complaining about everything till he’s hoarse and exhausted. Given the choice, of course, I’d rather he pulled out a .44 Magnum and blow a robber’s head clean off, or “Awf” as he’d put it, but as he’s about 274 years old now, I’ll take grumpy over nothing any day of the week.
Given that, I begrudgingly enjoyed Trouble with the Curve (12A), though I could have done without the opening image of Clint struggling to squeeze out a wee, and later in the film when he cries, I was forced to question everything I thought I knew about real men. As an insufferably difficult baseball talent scout whose failing eyesight and old school ways might soon see him put out to pasture, he hits the road for a spot of gentle drama with estranged daughter Amy Adams, who’s busy with her own life but still feels compelled to rush to his aid and have one last crack at connecting with the old sod.
A tirelessly and at times tiresomely old-fashioned film experience, this is a movie mainly for folks of a certain age, and others who, like me, take pleasure in visual proof that Clint Eastwood is still above ground. Co-starring lukewarm love interest Justin Timberlake, it’s a feature where acting-wise, everyone remains in their comfort zones and no one tries very hard. The screenplay is equally wishy-washy, while the baseball detailing is dull and mystifying.
Regardless of its forgettable nature and the fact that it outstays its welcome by maybe half an hour, this is an easy watch with a thin veneer of charm that you might well enjoy – only at home, on the home cinema format of your choice, next year.
Finally this week, from director Mike Newell comes an attractively realised but utterly unnecessary big screen adaptation of Great Expectations (12A), a BBC co-production that follows in the wake of a superior TV adaptation that nailed the Dickens’ classic last year. Also produced by the BBC, the three-hour telly spectacular won BAFTAs and Emmys and really did a beautiful job of adapting the soapy period tale. By comparison, this new version comes across as a rushed and shallow experience, more expensive certainly, but neither better played nor better made.