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rise-of-the-guardians1“Rise of the Guardians” takes familiar characters and transports them into a modern 3D fairy tale, complete with superhero nicknames. Santa becomes North, the Boogeymen is Pitch and the Sandman is Andy. OK the last one doesn’t sound all that superhero-ish, but the nap maker is the most mysterious and capable of the bunch of them. He’s definitely not sleeping on the job.

North (voice of Alec Baldwin) is the leader of the Guardians, a group of childhood fantasies come to life, whose job it is to protect the kids of the world—when they aren’t busy providing wonder and awe by exchanging quarters for teeth, ensuring good dreams and organizing Easter egg hunts, that is. When old enemy Pitch, (voice of Jude Law) reemerges, the Guardians put aside their daily duties and reunite.

Assigned a new recruit, Jack Frost (Chris Pine), by Manny (or the Man in the Moon as he is more formally known), some of the Guardians find it hard to accept a new member. “All he does is freeze pipes,” says the Easter Bunny, but despite the icy mayhem Jack seems to inspire everywhere he goes, he has a warm heart. He is search for meaning in his life, “I’ve tried everything but no one can see me,” he says. He’s on a quest for identity, to be recognized, and soon discovers the Guardians–and Pitch–hold may hold the key to his locked down memories.

“Rise of the Guardians” is beautifully animated. From the ethereal unicorns that lull Sandman’s kids to sleep to the darker vision of the Boogeyman’s horses–the personification of fear and bad dreams–it is guaranteed to spin your eyeballs around in their sockets. The details are lush, the character work beautiful even for the minor characters—if there is a sequel expect North’s army of Yetis and clumsy elves to become major characters—and there is a good message about believing in yourself as you believe in others.

But there is also some grim in this fairy tale. Despite the presence of the Easter Bunny and the lovable and delicate Tooth Fairy the movie contains some images that may upset younger viewers. Pitch’s dark legion of wild-eyed horses may have the intended trick—to inspire nightmares in kids–and a detail in Jack’s backstory is intense, so judge your child’s ability to process the scares before shelling out for tickets for the whole family.

“Rise of the Guardians” is about keeping the wonder of kid’s lives intact, but the animators have also done a good job of transferring some of that wonder onto the screen.

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