While Guardians is meant as a movie for children, adults will find plenty to relate to, like the long-suffering Yeti who make toys in Santa’s workshop (the adorable elves, who must be kin to the minions in Despicable Me, are mostly for show). There's even a pointed message for parents when the Guardians belatedly realize they’ve been so busy doing things for children they haven’t spent any time with children. However, it’s not a film I’d recommend for small or sensitive viewers. Parts of the story are intense and potentially frightening. Jack, a teenager, became immortal after his death, which we see flashbacks of twice. The battles are violent and contain images that could be disturbing.

That said, the spectacle of familiar holiday characters out of their usual context is entertaining, and the friendly rivalry of the Guardians is fun to watch. The animation is outstanding: the exquisite, intricate lace of Jack’s frost on the trees, the glittering trails of dreams Sandman sends across the skies, and so much more are a feast for the eyes. Pony up for the 3D version; this one is definitely worth it. Don’t leave before the credits are over; you’ll want to see how the children get back to bed after their big adventure. For a taste of the action, the film’s website (http://www.riseoftheguardians.com/) offers a number of free online games.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: I can’t remember any but it’s possible Santa knocked back a drink, though it was probably milk.
  • Language/Profanity: Bunny, who speaks with an Australian accent, uses "bloody" as an adjective. Santa employs Russian classical music composers’ names (Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov…) as cuss words.
  • Sex/Nudity: None. The tooth fairies do tend to swoon over Jack, but it’s more schoolgirl crush than love story.
  • Violence: Quite a bit and some of it very intense; battles are probably too scary for sensitive viewers. At the beginning of the film Jack is shown floating up to the frozen surface of a pond as he becomes immortal, a scene I found disturbing. In a later flashback we see him fall through the ice to his death. One character appears to have been killed (though appearances can be deceiving). There are a lot of "characters in danger" moments, including children who face their fear in a final standoff.
  • Spiritual Themes: It's a story about belief in what you can’t see. Jack spends a lot of time wondering "what am I here for?" before he discovers his purpose. Alert parents will find multiple conversation starters on topics from bad dreams to spiritual gifts.

Publication date: November 21, 2012