Based on the books by author/illustrator William Joyce, RISE OF THE GUARDIANS follows Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), a carefree immortal figure who creates winter fun for children who don't really believe in him. Everything changes when Pitch Black (Jude Law) rallies his nightmare forces to cause worldwide despair and make children stop believing in the Guardians of Childhood: Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), and the Sandman. When the Man in the Moon tells the existing Guardians that Jack Frost has been chosen to join them, they must convince him to take up the cause before Pitch can snuff out the light of hope in every child of the world.
Rise of the Guardians (not to be confused with Legends of Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole) is an exquisitely crafted 3-D adventure with an ingenious plot and surprisingly substantive messages that make it just as appropriate for tweens/teens who are still into animation as for younger elementary-aged audiences. The voice performances are all fantastic. Baldwin is hilarious (and nearly unrecognizable) as a tough, tattooed Santa who can wield two swords one moment and play with his workshop's toys (made not by elves but by yetis!) the next. The Easter Bunny (Jackman, for once using his native Aussie accent) is a strapping buck rabbit (but never call him a kangaroo), and Fisher's Tooth Fairy is lovely and amusingly obsessed with teeth.
As the contemplative Jack Frost, Pine nearly reprises some of the characteristics of his young Captain Kirk in Star Trek -- both characters are impulsive loners who don't know how to work on a team until they come into their own and spring into action. The movie's visuals are dazzling (especially in each of the Guardians' headquarters), the dialogue funny, and the threat from the villain real and disturbing (and wow, Law has a creepy accent). It's such a refreshing treat to see an animated film so thoughtfully made that didn't come from Pixar. Director Peter Ramsey has made an impressive, imaginative fantasy where the wonder of childhood reigns supreme.