Title: Arthur Christmas
Director: Sarah Smith
Stars: James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy
“Die Hard, Gremlins, Scrooged, could Aardman’s latest flick knock one of these flicks of The Great Xmas Trilogy list?“
Santa Claus is not just a man, he is part of a long line of men who for generations have delivered gifts to all the children of the world in a single night every year. 2011 is Malcolm Claus’ 70th time in the big red suit and he is ably assisted by his elder son Steve, who has his eye on the top job. His younger son, Arthur, is kept out the way to write letters to all the girls and boys. In this modern world the gift giving operation is a slick process using a giant futuristic sleigh-ship, a crack team of present delivering elves and a mission control to rival NASA. But something goes wrong and one little girl’s present is left at the North Pole.
It is up to hapless Arthur, along with Grandsanta, a wrapping elf and a vintage sleigh to get the gift to Gwen before time quite literally runs out and she awakes to find nothing under her Christmas tree.
This new digitally animated movie from the geniuses behind Wallace & Gromit is very busy during its opening act. Sight gags, audible gags, film references, a camera that never stays still are all combined in a brilliant establishing set piece of the present delivery. Although it does share some similarity to Disney short Prep & Landing. Once the movie settles down to getting on with the story it is a standard unlikely hero saves the day tale. You know going into the film that Arthur will succeed and the real joy from the film should be in how he does it.
Sadly how he does it runs out of steam earlier than expected and it never really picks up the momentum it had earlier. The characters are pretty standard for a seasonal flick Arthur is a bland likable hero. Surprisingly there isn’t an actual bad guy to boo hiss, big brother Steve would normally fit this role but he is just a pompous a$$ with a designer Santa suit. Bill Nighy’s elder Santa has the best lines some of which are clearly aimed at older viewers.
The script in spite of some squiffy logic is witty with little laugh out loud moments, the voice work is impressive with a surprising list of famous people lending their vocals to the vast collection of elves.
As usual the 3D is pointless pointy pointy nonsense offering nothing but the standard mild headache and a few quid less in your pocket.
With unmissable British sensibilities, and UK-centric product placement (Co-Op, the Post Office?!) I really wanted to like this film more, it just didn’t push all the right Christmas cheers buttons. In years to come it may age better than Santa Claus: The Movie but I doubt it.
In conclusion, the bar has been lowered but with luck Aardman’s next flick, The Pirates! will raise it back again.
Arthur Christmas BEST MOVIE REVIEW