Arthur Christmas – Movie Review

Seasonal family folderol with a winning story and a surprisingly diverse voice cast including High Laurie, James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack and Michael Palin.  I know, right?  

It’s Christmas Eve. The Claus family is no different than any other, they have their ups and downs, and at Christmas time, the stress understandably mounts.  Seems Santa is losing interest in his job, while his father Grandsanta, who, incidentally is a bad tempered firecracker, kicks over the traces as to what a great Santa he was. 

Santa’s eldest son Steve is heir apparent, and with bringing the job in line with the times, has computerized the entire operation.  Hundreds of elf nerds man banks of computers and in a sly nod to video war games, Steve wears high tech solider gear.  He’s exasperating.  He thinks he is efficient, brilliant and in charge. 

To him Santa is just a demented old man who should  hand over the reins of the sleigh – which he has now morphed into a Star Wars like space dreadnought, sure to bring more horror than happiness to those who grew up B.C. (before computers).   He seems poised for an overthrow.

And then there’s Arthur, a keen, peppy and optimistic teen who only needs to know that every child gets a gift from Santa on Christmas Eve to be happy.  But as Santa’s take-off time approaches, Arthur’s enthusiasm boils over and he’s barred from the front lines and tries to be useful behind the scenes.  Brother Steve sends Santa off with impersonal precision. 

Glorious scenes of Santa’s trips around the world are worth the price of admission; the artistry and attention to detail shows how different and special each country is, a festive kind of a travelogue celebrating the vastness of the world and how things like traditions unite us, no matter where we live.  Scenes of Santa and his elves delivering gifts are priceless, funny, imaginative and exciting.

It all takes place in a night and home they come. Unfortunately, Santa forgets to leave a gift for a little girl in southwest England. He’s too tired to turn back; Steve is unconcerned, leaving Grandsanta and Arthur who are galvanized into action.  

Grandsanta digs out his trusty old sleigh and the eight reindeer he’s been secretly raising and off they go to fulfill the little girl’s dreams of a pink bike.  And that’s about when all the trouble starts.

The film is unusually adult in its approach, but all the bells and whistles are there for the kids too.  It is big on the ideas of responsibility, respecting elders, kindness and team spirit, but it’s also a lot of fun. Crusty old Grandsanta’s the coolest and Arthur, well, he’s overflowing with love and hope. 

They are the perfect partners for a journey will be dangerous and unpredictable and requires a lot of guts.  I see a long future on TV and digital media for Christmases Future.

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35mm animated family
Written by Sarah Smith
Directed by Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
Opens: Nov 23
Runtime: 97 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Country: UK/ US
Language: English