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Rise of the Guardians

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

North (Alec Baldwin) welcomes Jack Frost (Chris Pine) in this scene from the animated movie "Rise of the Guardians."
What better way to spend a few hours over the holidays than in the company, not only of Santa Claus himself, but of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman?

Courtesy of the delightful 3-D animated adventure "Rise of the Guardians" (Paramount), moviegoers of almost all ages can do just that.

Based on books by William Joyce, the film focuses on the destiny of the legendary bringer of winter, Jack Frost (voice of Chris Pine). Free-spirited and mischievous, youthful Jack is also lonely and uncertain of his purpose in life. Until, that is, he's invited to join the Guardians, a force made up of the mythical characters listed above.

The Guardians' mission is to protect children against the machinations of the Bogeyman, aka Pitch Black (voice of Jude Law).

As the initially reluctant Jack is introduced to his newfound comrades, we discover a new slant on each traditional persona. Thus Santa, alias North (voice of Alec Baldwin), is a hardy Cossack type with a heavy Russian accent, while everyone's favorite seasonal rabbit (voice of Hugh Jackman) turns out to be a boomerang wielder from Down Under. (Parents of a certain age will recognize a play on a famous line from 1986's "Crocodile Dundee.")

The elusive distributor of quarters under children's pillows (voice of Isla Fisher) is portrayed as half-human, half-hummingbird. She's at least human, and feminine, enough that Jack's shining teeth (and, by implication, his appearance in general) set her a bit aquiver, though only in the vaguest, most innocent way. As for the chap who makes all our eyelids heavy, he's presented as a mute but cheerful and endearing sprite.

In his feature debut, director Peter Ramsey, working from a script by David Lindsay-Abaire, pits the hope and wonder championed by the Guardians against the fear and self-doubt that arm Pitch with his most effective wiles. The result is a tenderhearted and touching family movie -- one, moreover, that's entirely free of objectionable content.

This is, though, a struggle between the battling archetypes of good and evil over the fate of the world's children. So there are portions of the action that might be too dark and scary for the smallest members of the clan.

The film contains perilous situations. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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