‘Arthur Christmas’ is an underrated, animated holiday hit

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Directed by Sarah Smith & Barry Cook

7/10  PG

If Santa was a prick and his son was the real hero…well, that’s the plot of the whimsical Arthur Christmas. Director Sarah Smith’s first motion picture, Arthur Christmas is a splendidly cutesy film starring Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, and Arthur, brilliantly voiced by James McAvoy.

When the complex team of elves and executives fails to deliver a gift to a single child in England, Santa’s awkward, mailroom-working son Arthur (McAvoy) makes it his mission to deliver it. Along with his grandfather (Nighy), who was the previous Santa (it’s a wakeup call, learning there have been 20 Santa’s that each serve approximately 70 years), a gift-wrapping elf, and 8 reindeer, Arthur sets off in the original sleigh—put out of commission years ago by a large sky vessel and shiny technological equipment. But will Arthur reach the young girl before dawn breaks? Or will his arrogant brother Steve (Laurie) and papa (Jim Broadbent) beat him to the girl?

Films like this can only be described as cute. It’s a feel-good story, one that you can see with the whole family and enjoy before the holidays. But be warned, Santa and his son Steve are portrayed as pricks…especially at first…not even caring that they missed the child’s home. At one point, Santa even disregards Arthur in order to congratulate the older heir, Steve. Both grow out of their immorality, due to the magic of Christmas, and the story ends happily, but it may take some heavy explaining to get your child through the rough patches in the Claus family relationship.

In a touch of reality…finally…in animated film, Arthur’s adolescent face is speckled with none other than acne. It seems like a miniscule detail to note, I realize this. In 3D it’s ever the more apparent. This simple fact should help raise the self-confidence of pre-teens…and let’s face it, older teens…that have similar skin blemishes. I am sick and tired of perfect faces, let’s follow Arthur’s lead and get some reality into our fantasy-driven Christmas movies.

The actors were all picked splendidly, with McAvoy, Laurie, Nighy, and other well-known British actors, natural fits for playing citizens of the North Pole…right? Anyway, McAvoy needs to be in other things, he has the emotional range to play any character well.

Filled with funny, childish jokes, but also culturally-driven ones (the Cuba Missile Crises is mentioned quite comically), Arthur Christmas is a delight the whole family can enjoy. Not quite the best animated film of the year, but easily second behind the brilliant Rio. Not to mention a de-facto choice for best 3D movie of the year for me.

Arthur Christmas is on Blu-ray and DVD.


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