Directed by: Sarah Smith
Cast: (voices of) James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy
Running Time: PG
Rating: 1 hr 38 mins
Release Date: November 23, 2011
PLOT: On Christmas night one little girl didn’t get her present. Santa’s (Broadbent) bumbling son Arthur (McAvoy) decides it’s up to him to save the day.
WHO’S IT FOR? Families who enjoy the spirit of Christmas should get enough joy out of this slightly British story.
EXPECTATIONS: I knew nothing of the legend of Arthur. I didn’t know the voices involved or anything. The only thing I knew was I must choose between Happy Feet 2 and this. Since I wasn’t a fan of the first Happy Feet my decision was practically made for me.
James McAvoy as Arthur: Arthur is clumsy. No one knows what to do with him. The Elves don’t respect him and his family can’t trust him. He is also filled with pure joy. So, even though he looks like a young adult, he’s a child at heart. Kids and adults will find it easy to root for Arthur and his Christmas slippers.
Hugh Laurie as Steve: Steve is Santa’s other son. He’s the CEO of Christmas, or so it feels. He’s gotten rid of the sleigh and replaced it with an S-1 flying craft that can fill thousands of elves. I love his business-like approach in the beginning, because if all of this Santa stuff turned out to be real, this is how it would actually work. He’s also the opposite of Arthur in the caring department, but not enough to make him a villain.
Jim Broadbent as Santa: Santa is now in his 70th year of delivering presents, and thanks to his high-tech son Steve, Santa has pretty much become a figurehead. He doesn’t seem to mind until things start going wrong. Luckily his wife, voiced by Imedla Staunton, gets a couple of good moments at the end when she proves she isn’t just a housewife.
Bill Nighy as Grandsanta: Pure comic relief, this is the retired old guy on the couch looking for one last score on the sleigh. Along with his reindeer with a dog cone around his neck, this crazy old man is always trying to get a laugh for the audience, and he is mostly successful.
Ashley Jensen as Bryony: If Grandsanta mostly succeeds in making us laugh, Bryony is the true champion of the comic sidekick. Bryony is desperate to please even more than Arthur. She’s an elf in the wrapping division who discovers one little girl isn’t going to get her gift. Her weapons are masking tape, scissors and loads of wrapping paper. It never gets old and I could’ve used even more. I would have never guess Bryony was the voice of Ricky Gervais’ co-star in “Extras.”
TALKING: Arthur talks about the joy of Christmas, Santa and Grandsanta refer to the old days, the elves spew about the desperate need for everything going perfect … it’s all well and good. There are plenty of quick one-liners for adults like hearing that milk and cookies are being transferred into bio-fuel for the S-1.
SIGHTS: I saw it in 3D, which once again is totally fine for an animated movie. There are some attempts to capture flight on the sleigh, but I didn’t feel they were as effective as How to Train Your Dragon. The characters are more “animated” than most, with huge bulbous noises and the elves have crazy features. I love any attempt of not trying to make animated characters too human looking.
SOUNDS: A few Christmas carols pop up but not as many as you would think. Harold & Kumar do a better job with the holiday songs. Sure, Arthur breaks into a few songs, but that’s it. For some reason a Justin Bieber version of “Santa is Coming to Town” played before the movie. I can’t enjoy this kid at all.
BEST SCENE: Bryony helps take care of some pesky lions. It’s a fun action sequence made even better because of the weapons at Bryony’s disposal.
ENDING: I felt the Christmas spirit. It ends with quick written descriptions of what the characters are up to now, so be prepared to read those to your little ones.
QUESTIONS: What do Santa and Steve do the rest of the year? Do they really not talk to anyone but the elves and the rest of their family? No other humans?
REWATCHABILITY: Sure, I could see this becoming a fringe Christmas classic. I don’t think I’ll be watching it every year like Elf or Love Actually, but it’s good and especially good for the kids.
Arthur Christmas is nice. Sometimes that is harder to find than you would think in our animated movies. The holiday spirit is brought to life through our square peg Arthur. He loves everyone and everything that has to do with Christmas. Sure, this isn’t your grandfather’s Christmas. Everything is GPS, invisible shields and other high-tech devices, but that’s just in the beginning. After establishing how Christmas Eve is actually pulled off, we’ve got to go retro and that’s where the fun comes in. Crazy Grandsanta and Bryony help Arthur and go old school with the Christmas spirit.
The joy of Christmas and the joy of giving are fully realized in a sweet ending that also gives us some father/son moments. Arthur may not be perfect, but he cares. The same can be said for the film. Arthur Christmas is full of just enough holiday cheer.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10