Do your kids still believe?
It's an important question as we head into the holiday season. Do they write letters to Santa Claus? Do they put cookies out on Christmas Eve? Or carrots for the reindeer? How about a tooth under the pillow? Is that faith in holiday mystery and wonder still present?
My boys still believe, but I’m not sure how much longer we have left with our observant eight year old. Which helps explain why the warm-hearted, imaginative and effervescent Rise of the Guardians
weaved such a spell over our entire family unit. It should do the same for you.
So, let’s figure out when you can watch Rise of the Guardians with your kids.
Green Lights: “Everyone loves the sleigh!”
How is it no one thought of this before? The larger-than-life symbols of the various holidays – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Toothy Fairy and the Sandman – form an Avengers-style superhero team to combat the forces of evil around the globe.
Novelist William Joyce gets proper credit for pulling off what amounts to an “origin story” for this group, while Guardians director Peter Ramsey scores points for adapting the narrative with such wit and vivacity.
Guardians also walks a very difficult line, however, in dealing with characters who are far more real to a child than the Hulk or Captain America. At least, that’s what I was reminded while sitting next to our oldest son, P.J., during our Guardians screening. He was more interested than usual at the peeks inside Santa’s workshop and the Easter Bunny’s lair that Guardians provides. He relished the answers the film provides about how toys are made, how teeth are collected (and stored), and how Easter eggs are hidden. These are real locations to kids, and Ramsey keeps his animation grounded in a touch of reality that helps sell the mystery to kids and parents alike.
P.J. also trembled, slightly, at Pitch – the film’s chief baddie – but more on him in the Red Flags section.
Guardians trades in roller-coaster animation… the perpetual motion of energetic swoops and dives. It utilizes 3D – which is fantastic, by the way – and propels the audience forward to the next emotional cue. There’s a fantastic scene where an innocent, young girl named Sophie runs loose in the Easter Bunny’s lair, and that’s one of many sequences bursting with the joy kids feel during the holidays.
The winning character, though, is the one your kids likely don’t know before heading into Guardians: Jack Frost, voiced with bravado and tenderness by Chris Pine. The character’s heroism and eventual selfless attitude are the finest Green Lights in Guardians. Jack’s emotional hook also happens to be the fact that he’s invisible to kids because they don’t believe in him just yet. His search for an identity, for a purpose, will connect with several kids in the audience. And his ability to unite the Guardians in their final fight against Pitch, gives Guardians that thrilling punch… making this a memorable holiday adventure that families will adore for years to come.
Red Flags: “A touch of fear…”
Every superhero group needs a nemesis, and the Guardians – in their debut episode – face off against Pitch (Jude Law), a black-clad demon focused on introducing nightmares into children’s dreams.
“He’s creepy,” P.J. whispered to me after Pitch’s first scene. Every time the character returned to the screen, P.J. leaned a little closer. Stuff like this normally doesn’t phase him. Pitch, however, genuinely unnerved my boy.
It didn’t help when Pitch “killed” a Guardian. It isn’t brutal (and it’s a short-term effect), but at the moment, the loss of a hero bothered my kids. They automatically were attached to these characters. They believe in these characters. And losing one of the Guardians made my boys nuts.
The final Red Flag might be more for parents, as they realize Guardians addresses the realities and fears that chip away at our kids’ holiday faith. They’re growing up, and there isn’t a single thing we can do about it. Sooner or later, real-life versions of Pitch will eliminate that inherent holiday belief system. Thinking about the day when Michele and I won’t get to do all of the cheesy holiday traditions tied to Santa and the Easter Bunny breaks my heart. At least we’ll always have Rise of the Guardians to return to and relive the joy that comes with such activities.
Given the fact that Pitch creeped my eight-year-old out, I’m a little hesitant to say that Rise of the Guardians is appropriate for all ages. But P.J. is a sensitive kid, and our four-year-old son wasn’t phased by any of the threats on-screen.
The thrills in Guardians far outweigh the few chills, though. And the theme of holding on to the wonder and innocence of holiday beliefs are so worthy of celebrating as a family that I still think parents should take a chance on Rise of the Guardians this Thanksgiving holiday weekend – and for many holidays to come.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That with My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.