If you think you know all there is to know about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy, think again. According to this mostly disposable 3-D animated feature, those grand heroes of our childhood don’t only deliver toys, hide eggs, conjure sweet dreams and collect baby teeth. They also wield scimitars, throw boomerangs, whip granular tendrils and command a miniature fairy army, all in defense of innocence worldwide. Like the Owls of Ga’Hoole, they are…guardians! (These ones are just rising instead of, y’know, legending.) But when the bogeyman Pitch (Jude Law) threatens the peace, North (Alec Baldwin), Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman), mute Sandy, and Tooth (Isla Fisher) must train reluctant recruit Jack Frost (Chris Pine) to fight alongside them.
The high-concept silliness wears out its welcome fairly quickly; turns out there’s only so much elation to be had from an Aussie-accented rabbit striking cottontail kung fu poses. Who knew? Executive producer Guillermo del Toro’s influence can be felt in a few sequences, such as during a chase through Pitch’s Escheresque underground lair, and in the reveal of amnesiac Jack’s selflessly tragic backstory. But the voice work sounds more quick-paycheck than impassioned, and the animation rarely rises above video-game cut-scene quality. As revisionist holiday fables go, you’re better off watching Aardman’s delightful Arthur Christmas than this lump of coal.
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