You don’t have to ply kids with goodies for them to believe in you. But if you’re the stuff of folklore, it certainly helps.
Just ask poor Jack Frost (Pine) who, despite spreading the joy of his icy mischief for centuries, is still regarded less as a real entity than a figure of speech. Harrumph.
And with no memory of his past, Jack is an icon adrift. But that all changes when the unseen, unspeaking Man In The Moon mysteriously appoints him as one of ‘The Guardians’, the legendary figures whose job it is to uphold children’s dreams and protect their innocence.
They usually work independently, with seasonal duties falling to jolly East European giant ‘North’, aka Santa (Baldwin), and tetchy Aussie egg distributor Bunny (Jackman), while cash-for-choppers sweetie Tooth (Fisher) and Sandy the silent dream-maker work all year round.
However, when the ambitious bogeyman Pitch Black (Law) threatens their existence by raising fear and doubt in their believers, they must unite against him with all the friends they can get – including the untried and unsung Jack.
At first reluctant to join the cause, Jack discovers that being a Guardian gives him what he’s always needed: a sense of purpose. In return, he restores his workaholic peers’ sense of fun.
It also gives DreamWorks’ animators the chance to whisk everyone away on a journey that dazzles in both detail and scope.
From Santa’s pratfalling helpers (little and big) and Sandy’s swirling dream creations to the otherworlds of Tooth’s fairy palace and Pitch’s subterranean lair, the imagination is evident in every scene, whether it’s set in the real world or the land of make believe.
The plot is slightly more derivative, a standard good-vs-bad odyssey that stresses the importance of believing in yourself and others while freely lifting the Vader-Skywalker dynamic from Star Wars as Pitch tries to lure Jack to the dark side.
Generally though, it strikes a pleasing balance between cute (elves and fairies – aww!) and self-aware, as when Jack points out to his slightly sniffy peers that he’s actually out there having fun while they are “thinking of new ways to bribe kids.”
And despite the curiously omnipotent Man In The Moon it’s safely secular stuff, with Christmas and Easter recognised simply as times of hope and renewal... and rewards for being good.
Practically embracing the commercialism of childhood and clearly made with one eye on the franchise, it's arguably the least hypocritical holiday flick of the modern age.
Which, on top of its animated delights, makes it almost worth giving your kids’ back teeth for.