Directed by Sarah Smith, Barry Cook. Starring James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton.
A futuristic adaptation of the age old legend of Santa Claus with lots of charm, wit, bravado and a sprinkling of reality.
A tad late for this kind of film (India release) but a welcome entrance to drown out the horrible The Darkest Hour 3D that started off this year. Starting off with an elaborate mission involving a space sled that delivers Santa’s presents via Elf delivery men and women with Ninja precision, Arthur Christmas establishes the mantle of Santa as an inherited title passed down the ages from one jolly jelly belly to the next.
The current Santa is basically just a figurehead. His hunky son Steve (Hugh Laurie) runs the whole operation with precision accuracy and lots of high tech gizmos and gadgetry. His other son, the awkward and fumbling Arthur, works in ‘Letters’, which means he answers all the little kids’ lists of queries about Santa (how he fits through chimneys, etc) and of course what they want for Christmas. Grandpa Santa watches the whole 25th of December shindig on his TV, while criticising the process as lacking soul.
But there’s a glitch in Steve’s system which ends up in one little girl not getting her present on the yuletide eve. Santa and Steve let it slide but Arthur is appalled and decides to deliver it to her himself with help from Gramps and some good ol’ reindeer. Across the globe they journey and their adventures form the main part of the story. At the heart of it all, we learn that the Claus’s are a regular family with problems, jealousies and failings. Somewhere along the line, just like we have in real life, they too have lost their way, lost the magic and lost interest in what’s really important about the holidays and life.
What’s fun about Arthur Christmas is that it’s a tale about the holiday you haven’t seen before (except check out this classic from the 80s called The Night They Saved Christmas) with Elves with eye-piercings and a NASA-Call centre type HQ at the North Pole. There’s even an Indian Elf thrown in for good measure (and a sly dig at Indian call centres).
The writing could have been a bit better as I found that did drag out the movie and wasn’t as crisp or inspired as it could have been. The 3D is pretty cool. The folks at good old Brit studio Aardman Animations have made something unique with a twist that gives some welcome competition to the likes of Pixar and Dreamworks.