"Christmas will never be as magical until you have children of your own," my mother told me sadly after I declared there was no such thing as Santa Claus. When another little girl spilled the news to me at school, first putting any doubt in my head, I quickly lumped the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy in with Santa.
My mom was right. Three of my four children still faithfully believe in these guardians of childhood, as they are also positioned in the new DreamWorks film Rise of the Guardians
. Unfortunately, as much as the film is imaginative, it also raises doubts for kids who still believe. As we left the theater, the first thing my 6-year-old asked was, "Is Santa Claus real?"
Santa Claus summons the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman (keeper of dreams), and Jack Frost to the North Pole with an important mission. The Boogeyman (aka the keeper of nightmares) is threatening to destroy little boys' and girls' beliefs in them, therefore dashing all that these characters symbolize. "It is our job to watch the children of the world and keep them safe, but the children are in danger," Santa says, setting off a mission where the five legends work together to keep children across the globe still believing.
The effects are wonderful in the film, and the imagination is fun, especially when the guardians show where they live and how they do their work - e.g. How does Santa coordinate all those good little boy and girl wish lists? How does the Easter Bunny color all those eggs? Where does the Tooth Fairy keep all those teeth, and why is her role important? Is Jack Frost really as bad as he's made out to be?
For imagination, much of the movie soars. However, as my 4-year-old said, "I liked the beginning and the end, but not the middle," because much of the middle is a fight between good and evil. My 6-year-old said, "I didn't really understand it." She did understand enough, though, to ask me for the first time if Santa is real.
Except for the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy, the other guardians are cynical and reminiscent of the characters in last year's Arthur Christmas (see Kid Focused review).
Santa is a sword-wielding, reindeer-whipping, tattoo-covered, tough guy. No pink cheeks or jubilant "ho-ho-hos." The Easter Bunny isn't cute and cuddly, but demeaning and always looking for a fight until the guardians finally begin working together.
The film is rated PG for its fast-paced, mild violence, and for frequent loud and scary music. There are also several scenes with the Boogeyman and his nightmares that will frighten most young children.
Unless your children are beyond the age of innocence and wonder, don't risk it by taking them to see Rise of the Guardians
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of four young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.