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The computer-animated adventure "Rise of the Guardians" is an engaging mash-up of holiday icons, sort of a "Justice League" of fairy tales.
The premise (courtesy of William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood book series) unites the big names in children's fables Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman on a mission to protect kids' dreams. But a threat from Mr. Pitch, alias the Boogeyman (voiced by Jude Law), leads the Guardians to seek a new compatriot. Their choice is Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), the impish bringer of ice and snow, who's not sure he's ready for the responsibility of being a Guardian.
Director Peter Ramsey (making his feature debut) brings a brooding atmosphere to Mr. Pitch's nightmarish plot, and the script (by "Rabbit Hole" playwright David Lindsay-Abaire) neatly balances dark and light moods.
The good humor is provided largely by the voice cast, which includes Hugh Jackman as an Aussie Easter Bunny, Isla Fisher as a flighty Tooth Fairy, and especially Alec Baldwin, who hams it up nicely as a tattooed Slavic-accented Santa who uses Russian composers as swear words ("Shostakovich!").
Parents should be warned that the tone gets almost Dickensian dark, so you might want to steer the littlest children to "Frosty the Snowman" instead..
'Rise of the Guardians'
Opens Wednesday, Nov. 21, at theaters everywhere; rated PG for thematic elements and some mildly scary action; 89 minutes.