August 06, 2013

Mexican Vacation Day 5: Take Pity On RISE OF THE GUARDIANS

"Please not the Groundhog..."
Jamie roused me awake at approximately 3 AM because our A/C had stopped working.  I tried to turn it back on but it appeared to have lost power, even though our other devices were still plugged in and charging.  I turned on our ceiling fan and went back to sleep.  When I awoke in the morning, I discovered that not only had the whole room blacked out but we also had no running water.  The same was true for the entire hotel.  An auspicious start to the day.

Wishing we had showered the previous night, we got dressed and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant before walking over to check out the Mayan ruins.  We'd been told to get there early to beat the tour groups, so we were on the grounds by 8:30, just as the various local merchants were starting to set up tables and unpack their crates of wooden masks, stone figurines, ceramic dishes and whistles that mimc the sound of a jaguar.  The ruins themselves are nothing short of incredible to behold, the kind of thing that absolutely gobsmacks you and makes you marvel at the power of human ingenuity.  (Or, depending on your particular fancy, makes you grateful that aliens decided to visit primitive man.)  There are a number of partial structures still standing but it's the main pyramid that really knocks you back, especially considering the Mayans' incredible mastery of acoustics.  We walked around on our own, but we overheard multiple tour guides demonstrating how the sound of clapping hands from different positions around the pyramid would reflect back and actually change in pitch, even to the point of mimicking the name of the ancient serpent god just by clapping in a particular way.  I was suddenly glad I had watched Q: The Winged Serpent before I left.

After examining the rest of the ruins, including this ancient Tic Tac Toe board...

...we walked back to the hotel to discover that the water and power had been restored.  By now it was pretty hot so we decided to spend some time poolside before lunch.  Now, when we traveled to Egypt on our honeymoon, our biggest problem (other than food poisoning) was that we felt locked down in our hotel whenever we weren't with our tour guides.  Granted that country was in the midst of a contentious run-off election at the time, but we were constantly warned not to go into the city by ourselves.  It was a big shift from our time in Greece, where we were able to wander freely and find a delicious meal just about anywhere we went.  We were now experiencing a similar feeling at Mayaland, which we quickly dubbed Mexican Epcot.  Chichen Itza is pretty small and far removed from civilization, so the hotel is essentially designed so that you never have to leave the grounds.  But after an overpriced, cafeteria-level lunch buffet, we were starting to feel a bit stir-crazy.  So Jamie looked up some places in the nearby town of Valladolid, and, after finally showering, we drove 45 kilometers in search of some local grub.  The trip was made slower by extensive highway construction and numerous giant speed bumps which required you to come to a full stop before crossing and were all but invisible until you were right on top of them.  But we managed to find a place right in the town square with some live music, so it was worth the drive under the low-hanging full moon.  (Sidenote: I bet the ruins looked bad-fucking-ass with the full moon overhead.  They should definitely re-open the grounds on those nights.  It's what the aliens would have wanted.)

We got back pretty late and wanted to go with something short and light, so we chose Dreamworks' Rise Of The Guardians, a movie I feel was unfairly maligned because its title was so similar to Zack Snyder's weird animated owl movie.  This was the one with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman and Jack Frost as a sort of Justice League who defend the world's children from Pitch Black, a.k.a. The Boogeyman.  It's an outstanding voice cast, including Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher, Jude Law and an unrecognizable Alec Baldwin as a very Russian Santa Claus.  There's not a whole lot to say except that the film is very endearing with a great message for kids and plenty of stellar animation, (especially the Sandman and his awesome dream creations) and lots of clever but not winking humor for adults.  It's the kind of movie that encourages wonder in children and that's kind of great.  And for parents, it's something you wouldn't mind watching with your kids each and every day without end, as kids are wont to do.  I know it's based on a series of books and Dreamworks certainly considered it potential franchise material, so it's a shame the film didn't really catch on with audiences.  I blame the marketing for never rising above the cynical sounding premise of childhood myths as superheroes and failing to push the more wholesome, optimistic elements.  I also feel bad for David Lindsay-Abaire, a writer whose work I fell in love with in high school (partially because he was an alumni of my high school) and who's has had limited success in Hollywood.  I highly recommend Rabbit Hole, based on his Pulitzer Award winning play, but Guardians is certainly one of his better written films and I really wish more people had seen it.

If you've got kids, grab a copy on DVD and thank me later.

Title: Rise Of The Guardians
Director: Peter Ramsey
Starring: Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Isla Fisher, Dakota Goyo
Year Of Release: 2012
Viewing Method: Redbox DVD

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