Share Article:
Arthur Christmas (Review)

Arthur Christmas (Review)

Operation: Christmas is a go
Nov 24, 2011
Our Rating:
Your Rating:
click to rate!
VN:F [1.9.12_1141]
(1 votes)
Arthur Christmas
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama Release Date: 24/11/2011 Runtime: 97 minutes Country: UK, USA


Director:  Barry Cook, Sarah Smith Writer(s): 
Peter Baynham

Sarah Smith

Cast: Ashley Jensen, , Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent
Arthur Christmas (Review), reviewed by Anders Wotzke on 2011-11-24T10:32:47+00:00 rating 4.0 out of5

Whilst adults are busy pondering the meaning of life, kids have been losing sleep over a far more pressing question: how can a single man deliver billions of presents in a single night? Well, with plenty of wit and perhaps a bit of insider knowledge, Britain’s Aardman Animations (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit) have come up with a cracker of an answer: all it takes is a gigantic spaceship, an army of tech-savvy elves, and a loving (albeit dysfunctional) family to oversee the whole operation.

That’s the inspired premise behind Arthur Christmas, the endlessly entertaining CG-animated adventure in which one of the planet’s most iconic figures is given a 21st century makeover. Gone are the days of reindeers pulling sleighs; Christmas is now a military-efficient operation involving super computers, satellite tracking and a control room teeming with elves to make sure no present goes undelivered, and no evidence is left behind. The procedure is so hi-tech, not even poor old Santa (Jim Broadbent; Another Year) knows what each button does; he just does as he’s told by his eldest son Steve (Hugh Laurie; Hop), the brains of the whole operation eager to supersede his father. Meanwhile, Santa’s clumsy youngest son Arthur (James McAvoy; X-men First Class) stays out of harm’s way in the Mailing Room, basking in the Christmas cheer that emanates from the piles of letters children have addressed to Santa.

arthurchristmas 021 600x324 Arthur Christmas (Review)

After a glitch in the system leaves a single present undelivered, Steve shrugs it off as a minor margin of error in what was otherwise their most successful Christmas ever – a sly stab at just how commercial the holiday has become. But Arthur, unable to fathom how heartbreaking it must be to wake up on Christmas to find nothing under the tree, sets out to deliver the present on his own accord, enlisting the help of an enthusiastic gift-wrapping elf named Bryony (Ashley Jensen; Gnomeo & Juliet) and last generation’s Santa, Grandsanta (Bill Nighy; Rango). With Steve’s spaceship under lock and key, the trio are forced to make the delivery the old fashioned way: by sleigh and reindeer.

Even a right ol’ Scrooge will struggle to hold back a smile during the dazzling adventure that ensues, which sees Arthur, Grandsanta and Bryony attempt to navigate their way to England, but instead wind up in Canada and Africa.  Like the best family films, the story is simple in structure yet intricate in execution; the stunning opening shots of Santa’s workshop in full operation evokes the same wonderment felt when first witnessing the Scare Factory in Pixar’s Monsters Inc.  It helps that the writing by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith is just as sharp as the best Pixar outings, the two frequently finding that balance between all-ages physical humour and refined adult wit. Their larger than life characters are brought to life by an excellent voice cast, most of whom aren’t simply involved because they’re big-name stars, but rather because they actually suit their roles. Still, the real strength of the film lies not in its protagonist Arthur – who I’d argue least interesting member of the Claus family – but in its lack of an antagonist. Without a villain, the film rises above the good vs. evil structure that defines most children’s films and finds a core complication everyone can relate to: a kooky family.  And while the trials of bringing the clan together for Christmas is an oft-explored subject, it feels decidedly more authentic here than it has in recent Christmas fables. Sure, the end is a bit cheesy, but it wouldn’t be a movie from the makers of Wallace and Gromit if it didn’t feature some cheese, now would it?

arthur christmas pic011 e1322092868431 600x244 Arthur Christmas (Review)

After a long and successful history in Claymation, Arthur Christmas marks Aardman’s second foray into CG-animation after 2006’s Flushed Away — a movie which despite positive reviews, struggled to set the box office ablaze (possibly because it was about sewer rats). This time round, the studio has played it safe by piggybacking on the success of a character already beloved by kids the world over, but they’ve done so without falling into the trap of making a trite, uninspired Christmas cash grab starring Tim Allen. Instead, Arthur Christmas feels like the product of genuine inspiration, and although it’s somewhat disheartening to see one of the biggest industry advocates for stop motion trade in their clay for computers, there’s no denying that the studio’s distinctive fingerprints are all over this one.

Follow the author Anders Wotzke on Twitter.

Get daily updates in your inbox!

View by star rating:

Underworld: Awakening
"Back in black"
- Anders Wotzke
Read Review
Take Shelter (Review)
Take Shelter
War Horse (Review)
War Horse
The Artist (Review)
Artist, The
The Darkest Hour (Review)
Darkest Hour, The
▶▶ More movie reviews ◀◀