Over the past five years Sony Pictures Animation has produced some outstanding animated films, including “Open Season”, “Surf’s Up” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” For “Arthur Christmas” they partnered with Aardman (the Wallace and Gromit folks) and together they created a modern holiday classic.
James McAvoy (who also voiced Gnomeo is this year’s “Gnomeo and Juliet”) stars as the voice of Arthur. He’s Santa’s cheery, but clumsy youngest son, who works in the mail department at the North Pole. Older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) is cocky, self-centered and all business, as he impatiently waits for his father, Santa, to retire, so he can get out of mission control and actually take over the reigns of the toy delivery operation as the new Santa.
Following what seemed to be another successful Christmas Eve mission Arthur discovers that one toy has been left behind, meaning a child was missed. Steve doesn’t think it’s a big deal but Arthur believes that no child should wake-up Christmas morning without a gift from Santa under the tree. So he and his Grandsanta (the hilarious Bill Nighy), who’s been retired from the job for some time, decide to get out an old sleigh, and with the assistance of an equally old reindeer and an inexperienced elf, set-out to deliver the present before it’s too late.
What seems like a very simple storyline actually branches-out into unexpected areas. The script has so much to say about the holidays, sibling rivalry, family relationships, modern technology – and it does it in a sweet, smart and very funny way. The characters are complex as are the issues. First time Director Sarah Smith, who also co-wrote the script, has packaged a film that’s great for kids and adults – on many different levels.
At first I thought “Arthur Christmas” was going to be a big-screen rip-off of “Prep and Landing”, Disney’s 2009 Christmas special, which stars Santa’s elves, and shows how they “really” get the job done on Christmas Eve, using high-tech, secret agent-style methods. And the opening scene in “Arthur” takes that idea to the next level, with a spectacular 3D sequence. But then the focus shifts to Arthur and his family (including Mrs. Santa, who has a small, but important role) and the movie blossoms into a genuine original.
Jim Broadbent, Laura Linney and Eva Longoria are also part of the talented voice cast. And all of the elf voices are very well done – just listen closely because you don’t want to miss any of the funny lines.
“Arthur Christmas” is sweet – but it’s so much more than that. This movie captures the spirit, wonder and magic of the holiday so beautifully that it does what all great holiday movies do: make you forget about all the craziness and stress of the season and simply appreciate what Christmas is all about.
“Arthur Christmas” is rated PG for some very mild language. It’s appropriate for kids 7 and up. Little ones will be mesmerized by the brilliant images and delightful characters and older kids, parents, grandparents and everyone else will be thoroughly amused and delighted by the story and the messages.
On The Official Kid Critic Report Card, “Arthur Christmas” gets an A-. The movie’s pace does slow down a little bit in the middle, but other than that it’s a perfect holiday treat for the entire family.