On Christmas night at the North Pole Command Centre, run in military fashion by Steve Santa (Hugh Laurie), the older son, millions of gifts are wrapped by special helpers like wrapping elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) for delivery by the newfangled, enormous and superfast flying vessel that has replaced the old sleigh method. But one gift is accidentally left on the floor and that means one child will not get a present from Santa. This is a major problem: in Santa's world, every child is important. Santa's youngest son Arthur (voice of James McAvoy) looks to use his father's (Jim Broadbent) high-tech operation for the urgent mission to deliver the gift. But there are many obstacles in the way.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Arthur Christmas is a deceptively bland title for one of the best films of the year - no matter what your age or where you are on the Santameter. It is a hero's journey, but it is the funniest film ever made about the hugely popular subject of Santa. It is also one of the most innovative films of its genre, combining the traditional Christmas icon with a contempo, high tech setting.
We meet four generations of Santas, and the current one (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is a rather daffy old thing who is the first to have to get used to what looks like a giant spaceship as the method of transport and delivery. It is part of the new Santa HQ's technical upgrade, which is masterminded by giant databank, run by a cool and impressively efficient computer (voiced by Laura Linney).
Steve (Hugh Laurie) is a control freak and the ambitious older son who yearns to put on the Santa suit in his father's footseps - as soon as possible or earlier. Arthur (James McAvoy) is the younger son, whose clumsiness and lack of ambition marks him down. But of course it is Arthur whose faith in the power of Santa revives the flagging Santa empire's spirits and puts it back on course. The focus is found once more ...
You could easily explore the film's symbolism and the many metaphors that could be applied to our real world. But you would probably waste a damn good 90 minutes when you could be giggling and chuckling at the wonderfully witty dialogue, brilliant and comedic animation and spectacular character creation.
Packed with incident, accident and calamity, Arthur Christmas is both hip and wise: it has a cool sensibility about the interface between technology and the old Santa story, but it wraps it up in a wise, understated message about the value of believing in it. Or rather, the value of what it stands for; namely kindness and the importance of children, the gift of innocence and the power of making someone - anyone, everyone if possible - happy. In fact, the film's end credits roll under a lovely rendition of the song,
England's Aardman Studio which produced the film for Sony (CG animation) is the one that created the loveable, Wallace and Gromit claymation characters; their wit and their bravura animation are stunningly showcased in Arthur Christmas.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
Let all your Christmases come at once with this brilliantly funny, inspired animation from the makers of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. With its ingenious script about a dysfunctional family of Santa Clauses and a new style of high-tech Christmas operation that has replaced the tinkling red sleigh and reindeers dashing through the skies, this high energy tale rips along like the speed of light. Every child matters is the theme of this feel-good story, coupled with the importance of Christmas, holidays and family, which are all gift-wrapped into a whirlwind of hilarity, innovation and creativity.
Santa's misunderstood son Arthur (James McAvoy) is not good with heights. Wearing his electronic fluffy slippers, he spends his days answering letters from millions of children making their Christmas requests, while his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) sporting facial hair in the shape of a Christmas tree, runs the North Pole Santa mission control with military precision. Santa (Jim Broadbent) is nothing but a figurehead these days and Steve holds his breath impatiently, waiting for Santa to pass the mantle. Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) meanwhile, sits in the backroom watching the Christmas deliveries on closed circuit television, with only one of his trusty old reindeer as company. The ever-patient Mrs Santa (Imelda Staunton) brings him mushy food for his toothless state.
The story really begins when Arthur discovers that one present has been accidentally left behind. Steve is less than interested to hear that in his foolproof system a child has been missed and Santa is in the land of Nod. To ensure that the sweet little girl who is expecting a pink twinkle bike is not disappointed, Arthur makes it his mission to deliver the package himself. A madcap adventure follows involving the eccentric Grandsanta, the idealist Arthur and a conscientious gift-wrapping Elf (Ashley Jensen) who together hit the clouds in an old fashioned reindeer-pulled sleigh in order to make the delivery and save the day. Mishaps and side-splitting catastrophes follow before we watch, lump in throat, as the magic of Christmas unfolds.
There are many delights in his wonderfully inventive film as superb animation and a top voice cast brings this magical story to life. Guaranteed to lift your spirits and rekindle your childlike innocence, it is a toss-up as to whether adults or children enjoy it more.
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ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (G)
VOICES: James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, Ashley Jensen, Eva Longoria, Will Sasso, Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Ramona Marquez, Laura Linney, Imelda Staunton
PRODUCER: Steve Pegram
DIRECTOR: Sarah Smith
SCRIPT: Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jericca Cleland
EDITOR: James Cooper
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yves Barre
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 24, 2011