As the story goes, more than 300 years ago, the Man in the Moon appointed Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman as Guardians, serving as stalwart protectors of innocence and wonder. Their sinister adversary is the Boogeyman, who is determined to destroy children's naïve belief in these magical icons, thus rendering them powerless. Because of a bizarre lunar prophecy, a playful yet lonely water sprite, Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), is thrust into the fray, much to the dismay of those who are skeptical about this slippery, glistening, invisible outsider who turns water into ice.
What's curious is how these characters are depicted. Known as North, Santa (voiced by Alec Baldwin) talks like a Russian, has tattoos and a thumb ring and is tended by manic elves and hard-working yetis. E. Aster Bunnymund (voiced by Hugh Jackman) with his fleet-footed, faceless eggs is obviously Australian. The flitting forces of the Tooth Fairy (voiced by Isla Fisher) not only faithfully bestow her under-the-pillow coins but save the teeth they gather. Last but never least, snoozing Sandman silently spins his pixie dust into children's windows at night, begetting the sweet dreams that the Boogeyman, called Pitch Black (voiced by Jude Law), is determined to plunge into dark, despairing, dungeon-filled nightmares.
Their battle for youthful minds and hearts is waged around two New England tykes: Jamie (Dakota Goyo) and his little sister, Sophie (Georgie Grieve), who stumbles into the portal linking Earthly world with the Guardians.
Amusingly adapted by playwright/screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire from William Joyce's books, "The Guardians of Childhood," as well as Joyce's short feature "The Man in the Moon," this fairy tale, as directed by former storyboard artist Peter Ramsay, is overly busy, yet beautiful to behold, especially in 3D, thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins, who served as visual consultant, along with executive producer Guillermo del Toro.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Rise of the Guardians" is family-friendly 7. Too bad that the fantasy gets so frenetic that it's exhausting.