(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Rise of the Guardians

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max

The Pitch: Here’s the one-sentence pitch: what if famous children’s characters were superheroes? Here’s the slightly longer version: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman are collectively known as the Guardians, and they stand guard over important ideas like Wonder, Hope, Memories, and Dreams. But when the evil Pitch Black, aka the Boogeyman, returns from dormancy, the Guardians call upon the mischievous winter scamp Jack Frost to join them and fight to keep the world from covering the world in darkness.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Before he served as a co-director on the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Peter Ramsey made his feature directorial debut with this excellent but under-seen 2012 gem. The film somehow failed to reach a large audience upon its initial release, but now that the holiday season is upon us, it’s the perfect time to give it the attention it has always deserved.

The voice cast here is superb: Jude Law gives an air of menace to the villainous Pitch Black, Chris Pine imbues the impish Jack Frost with soul and humanity, Hugh Jackman lends some nice Aussie bluster to the Easter Bunny, Isla Fisher gives a bit of pluck to the Tooth Fairy, and Alec Baldwin does a surprisingly decent job as a Cossack take on Santa Claus. There is some fun Lord of the Rings-style banter between several of the characters, jockeying like Gimli and Legolas through friendly rivalries with one another about whose holiday is better and whose powers are the best.

Another reason this is a good time to catch up with this film is that the shadowy baddie’s evil plan – to use fear, temptation, and doubt in order to prey on the world – feels even more timely now than it did in 2012. This film’s primary currency is belief, and Ramsey and the film’s writers know how to weaponize that in a way that can read as simply a crowd-pleasing narrative choice to younger audiences. But it’s also structured in such a way that it’s easy for older audiences to apply some real-world meaning onto a lot of these fantastical events, giving the movie a richness that can withstand multiple viewings. Give it a shot – I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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