The daughter of writer/illustrator William Joyce (“Dinosaur Bob,” “Robots”) once asked him whether the Easter bunny knew Santa Claus and that inspired him to create a series of stories about the characters of fantasy and folklore who care for children. They come together in an Avengers or X-Men-style team known as The Guardians in this visually rich but cluttered film.
Those characters are a Slavic-accented, scimitar-wielding Santa (Alec Baldwin) with “naughty” and “nice” tattooed on his burly arms, an Easter bunny with an Aussie accent and a lot of attitude (Hugh Jackman), a silent sandman who communicates with dreamy designs made from glistening specks, and the feathered Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), who presides over a battalion of hummingbird-sized minions who collect baby teeth and leave coins while children sleep. When the happiness and comfort of the children of the world is threatened by the Boogeyman (Jude Law), they need more help and so they invite Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to join them, explaining that they are responsible for making sure the children of the earth have “wonder, hope, and dreams.”
Jack is a loner, haunted by not being able to remember anything before he woke one day in the ice, somehow knowing that his job was to bring the fun of winter to children. At first he has no interest in joining the others. But when he makes things worse, he has to help make them better.
It’s a sweet idea and there are witty and charming moments and some lovely visuals, especially the sandman, the elves, and the iridescent little tooth fairies. Like all great villains, Law has an English accent and sounds nicely sneery. But the storyline gets lost in a whirlwind of locations and plot twists. Each of the characters has its own mythology and home base and alliances. The goal of the Guardians is for children to have faith in them, so it makes no sense that they accomplish that only by showing themselves, which is proof, not faith. There is no suggestion that some of the world’s children may not have these characters as a part of their traditions or faiths. While the movie asks its characters and its audience to find their centers, the story itself is oddly hollow.
Parents should know that this fim has a scary villain, characters in peril, a sword-wielding Santa, a character who sacrifices himself to save a sibling, and issues of believing in fantasy characters.
Family discussion: How are the characters different from what you expected? What do they have in common? Which is your favorite and why?
If you like this, try: the book, Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce and the movie “Robots”