Vividly colourful details in the animation and script bring mythical characters to life in ways that are thoroughly engaging as this riotous action-comedy soars through its epic story. It's a bit frantic, barely pausing to let us admire the artistry, but it's a lively thrill-ride of a movie that will keep both adults and kids on the edge of their seats.
Jack Frost (Pine) is a lonely boy no one else can see, so he has no idea why he exists at all. He fills time creating snowy-icy mischief to make children laugh, and feels out of his depth when he is summoned by the Guardians of childhood: burly Russian Father Christmas (Baldwin), tough-talking Aussie Easter Bunny (Jackman), fluttering Tooth Fairy (Fisher) and wordless Sandman. They need him to help them defeat Pitch (Law), a boogeyman who is replacing children's imaginations with nasty nightmares in an effort to get them to believe only in him. So while Jack works out a plan to get rid of Pitch, he also needs to figure out if he belongs with the Guardians.
Screenwriter Lindsay-Abaire and the animation team have a lot of fun with the characters, which are loosely based on the William Joyce novels. Each person is fully formed, with terrific vocal work from gifted actors who pack their characters with personality, especially Baldwin and Jackman. So their interaction zings with attitude even as the imagery bursts with hilarious details. Since the story is centred on Jack, he's the one who carries us through, and he's an engaging reluctant hero in the vein of Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins. Watching him discover his own inner skills is often exhilarating.
Visually, the filmmakers use eye-catching 3D to make the most of every set-piece and setting. We want to freeze the frame and get a better look at each location, and even the smallest side characters are so fascinating that we'd like to see more of them. In other words, we sometimes feel overloaded with amazing stuff to see. So it's nice that the film's message is both important and understated: that we need to overcome our fears and celebrate the joy of life.