The story is equal to the visuals, thanks to a script by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire with help from author William Joyce (whose artwork also inspired the film); music by four-time Academy Award nominee Alexandre Despla; voice acting by Alec Baldwin (North), Hugh Jackman (the Easter Bunny), Chris Pine (Jack Frost), Ilsa Fisher (Tooth) and Jude Law (Pitch). Guillermo del Toro served as an executive producer.
Who won’t like this movie? Literalists — mostly Protestant but some Catholic as well — who will object to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny being put on par with the Tooth Fairy, and to their being no mention of the “real meaning” of Christmas or Easter. I predict the usual grousing about “taking Christ out of Christmas,” but it will be misplaced, because this movie has a profoundly Catholic sensibility and rock-solid religious underpinnings.
No serious Catholic, for instance, could fail to notice the movie’s setting, which is not Christmas at all but three days before Easter. Pitch steals hope from the world during the Triduum, the days we commemorate because all hope seemed lost. But that was an illusion, and Pitch is Satan explained at a child’s level: He has no power to hurt anyone, but his lies and nightmares can make people despair.
The Guardians are warriors sent to defeat him (St. Michael, remember, is a Guardian) but in the end — SPOILER ALERT! — it’s what the children do that matters. The Guardians make it possible for them to act. The greatest problem the children face is that the nightmares they experience are real, while the things that made them believe in the Guardians, lost teeth replaced with coins and Easter eggs, have disappeared. The movie grapples with the problem of how anyone can believe in something he can’t see or touch, and even has one child begging his toy rabbit (a stand-in for the Easter Bunny) for just one sign that he is real.
Even the Guardians suffer this depravation. The four existing Guardians have long ago learned to trust their messages from the Man in the Moon, but Jack Frost has never received anything from him except his life and his name. At one point he shouts at the moon to tell him what he wants him to do and why he is there at all.
The great themes of prayer, faith, belief, and despair are what give the film its power, while so many consciously “Christian” movies fall flat. Rise of the Guardians addresses an important truth for both children and adults: Fear is real. But it also promises that help exists, whether you can see it or not; and that fear never conquers. It presents a world that Catholics should be familiar with, one full of unseen forces and beings constantly at work on behalf of (and sometimes in opposition to) mankind, one in which all things are essentially beautiful and good, and in which bad things are really good things twisted into what they’re not meant to be. In other words, it presents the world as we believe it really is, whether there’s an Easter Bunny or not.
And yes, it’s worth the extra money to see it in 3-D.
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