Movie Review: "ARTHUR CHRISTMAS"
Published: Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 14:11
"Arthur Christmas", the first 3D animated feature film from Aardman Animations, certainly delivers. Taking place on Christmas night, this British holiday tale is also about the family that resides in the North Pole. Santa Claus or Malcolm (Jim Broadbent), is the latest Santa in a line that's included his retired father, and the wildly eccentric Grandsanta (a hilarious Bill Nighy). Malcolm has been delivering toys to billions of children all around the world for seventy years.
No longer a mystery, Santa's tremendous feat is accomplished with the aid of the S1, an immense red spaceship designed by his oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie). Steve, a muscular GI Joe type who hopes to become the next Santa following his father's retirement, is the brains behind the operation, manning an impressive control station with countless elves. The elves that accompany Santa on his Christmas mission are tiny spies skillfully infiltrating homes to detect nice and naughty levels as presents get delivered. The film's opening packs a number of thrills and espionage action that the 3D takes full advantage of.
Aside from the beautiful animation is the story itself, which begins to unfold when the audience is introduced to Santa's youngest son. Arthur (James McAvoy) is an overeager klutz with an unshakable faith in Christmas and his father. Relegated to answering the letters that come pouring into the North Pole, Arthur is seen as a joke but his Christmas spirit never wavers.
Once Santa has made the rounds on the S1 and returned home, shocking Steve with the announcement that he is not retiring, it is discovered that one of the presents, a bike for a young girl named Gwen, has been left behind. Santa and Steve insist it is only a trivial mistake, but Arthur refuses to accept letting down even one child and embarks on a secret journey with Grandsanta to deliver Gwen's bicycle, while spreading Christmas cheer of course.
Tagging along for the ride is Bryony (Ashley Jenson), a plucky elf from the gift wrapping division. The unlikely trio head out on Grandsanta's old sleigh Evie, encountering numerous obstacles, one of which includes lions at a Tanzanian reserve. Although this very dangerous mission suffers quite a few setbacks and the loss of some reindeer, Arthur is able to prove himself, and the whole family comes together in the Christmas spirit.
Though the ending seems clear from a mile off, "Arthur Christmas" is a true delight. Teeming with action and hilarity (mostly supplied by Grandsanta), it's an inventive spin on the legend of Santa Claus. The film is able to blend sleek and futuristic technology with genuine heart and warmth. There are also plenty of moments when Aardman's own brand of animation wizardry shines through, making for a visually stunning and emotionally compelling piece of work.
Directed by Sarah Smith, and also featuring the voice talents of Imelda Staunton and Eva Longoria, "Arthur Christmas" is sure to inspire young and old with plenty of Christmas cheer.