Arthur Christmas (2011)
Directed by Sarah Smith & Barry Cook
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 one little girl 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 Santas 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 England?
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. In a touch of reality…finally…in animated film, Arthur’s adolescent face is speckled with acne. It seems like a miniscule detail to note, I realize . 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 tired of seeing 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. 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 second behind Rio. Not to mention a de-facto choice for best 3D movie of the year for me.