DreamWorks Animation president Jeffrey Katzenberg recently lamented the dearth of holiday-themed movies headed to your multiplex this year. But in foisting "Rise of the Guardians" upon unsuspecting audiences for the holidays, it's clear he just wanted some cover.
Other holiday films would take some of the pressure off this joyless, soul-dead piffle.
"Guardians" is the worst animated movie ever to wear the DreamWorks logo.
Based on William Joyce's "The Guardians of Childhood" books, it's about a team that includes the Easter Bunny, here given an Aussie accent by Hugh Jackman; "North," aka Santa, made all Slavic and silly by Alec Baldwin; the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and the silent, roly-poly Sandman.
They need the help of newcomer Jack Frost (Chris Pine) if they're to have a prayer of stopping "Pitch," short for "Pitch Black," voiced by Jude Law. He's seeing to it that kids across the world are giving up their belief in magic. And he's giving them night terrors.
All of the Guardians have their public face, and their commando side. When action is called for, they team up to save childhood. Is Jack Frost worthy of their ranks? He's an imp, a bit of a rogue, more into mischief than making the world safe for dreaming.
North sees the threat that Pitch's "touch of fear" carries, and summons his unruly troops with Russian composers' names as profanity.
The Easter Bunny is more militant. He packs a boomerang and a chip on his kangaroo-sized shoulder.
It's a confused ramble, more concerned with the mechanics of how Santa manages to make all those toys -- he has zany, nonspeaking Yeti and elf assistants -- than with telling an interesting story.
The assorted hummingbird-sized helpers are fascinating, visually. But is there a message, a lesson or a laugh in them? No.
"Rise of the Guardians" is harmless enough, but this is the studio's least entertaining film.
For a company that banks on building franchises, from "Shrek" to "Madagascar," these Guardians don't rise to the occasion -- not by a long shot.