ARTHUR CHRISTMAS"Dear Santa, are you real? If you live at the North Pole, how come I can't see you house when I look on Google Earth?"
Arthur Christmas is a 2011 animated comedy directed by Barry Cook and Sarah Smith that offers a rather original holiday story. With the world so overly-populated in today's society, the current Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent) utilizes some new technological advances in order to make his annual trip around the world delivering gifts. With the help of his eldest son Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), the two circumnavigate the globe in their massive command aircraft and deliver two billion presents; however, it is soon discovered that one child was missed. When this comes to the attention of Santa's younger son Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), who has been relegated to writing return letters to the children who wrote to Santa, he feels the need to return the gift despite his father and brother's lackluster desire to do the same. So, with the help of his Grandsanta (voiced by Bill Nighy), Arthur takes the old sleigh on a trek to England to deliver the final gift of the Christmas season.
I first started hearing about Arthur Christmas around last year's holiday season, and because it was so close to Christmas 2010, I thought it might be getting ready for a late 2010 release. However, the film was still under production at that point, and it wasn't until summer 2011 that we got a teaser trailer to see what this film might be about. I knew that the film would be British-centric considering the caliber of acting star-power lending their vocal talents, but aside from that, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect until a legitimate trailer (posted at the end of this review) was released. Early reviews posited that the film should be a smash success, so it was only a matter of time until I was able to give the film a viewing.
I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with the final product presented in Arthur Christmas. We're getting a rather splendid screenplay that gives a completely different view of Santa than we've seen in films past. While Santa himself is an older, bumbling man, he relies heavily on his son Steve who is the real brains behind their high-tech operation. The film's opening sequence, which illustrates how this Santa delivers gifts to children in today's modern society, is quite a sight to behold, and it has both an action-y and comedic feel. It isn't until after the opening salvo that we actually meet our titular character and start to learn about his personality. After the successful Christmas mission, we learn that one child has been left present-less, and when Arthur and his Grandsanta decide to embark on their own mission to deliver that gift, the screenplay becomes even greater. The rest of the film serves as a clash between the old and the new, showing both the pros and cons of each point of view. The final scenes of the film, however, show that all the bickering and arguing over who's method works more effectively is ultimately a moot point in light of the true spirit of Christmas. This screenplay brings comedy, adventure and a healthy heaping of heart, and it works exceptionally well from start to finish.
As I previously mentioned, we're getting some high-caliber acting power bringing the vocal work this time around, and everyone is pretty much on their A-game. McAvoy is fantastic as our lead, playing the clumsy worrywart Arthur to a tee. In complete contrast, Laurie brings a headstrong and confident Steve to the screen, offering quite the foil for our central protagonist. Also offering a strong performance is Ashley Jensen, who plays the gift-wrapping elf Bryony who aides Arthur and Grandsanta in their insane endeavor. Also be on the listen for Imelda Staunton, who does well as Mrs. Claus. Overall, the vocal talent is simply fantastic and fits the film quite well.
At the end of the day, Arthur Christmas is a well-made animated film that's sure to delight audiences this holiday season. I'm sure you'll still be able to find it in a theater near you, and if you haven't given it a chance, you just might want to do so. And if you're in the mood for some new Christmas fare, then this one's right up your alley. I can assure you that you haven't seen anything quite like it before.
Movie Review Summary
2 Thumbs Up