a critiQal film review Arthur Christmas (2011)

Plot: So how does Santa (Broadbent) deliver all those presents in one night? The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But this year, Santa's son Arthur (McAvoy) has an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.

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  • ...a comedy that promotes kindness and selflessness...it's a film that will get the whole family into the Christmas spirit.

AFter opening our presents, it was time to sit down and enjoy a Christmas movie to keep things jolly. This year, we decided on Arthur Christmas, an animated holiday film. Would Arthur Christmas help keep the cheer going? Or should we just have re-watched The Polar Express (2004)?

Thankfully, the cast lives up to our expectations. With McAvoy’s Arthur, Broadbent’s Santa and Nighy’s GrandSanta leading the way, the cast gives the story a great voice. Thankfully, the voices may be somewhat recognizable, but viewers won’t have the problem of trying to put names with voices. Instead, viewers should be able to enjoy Arthur Christmas as is, with no actor faces interfering with their enjoyment of the film.

The characters themselves, while a bit one-dimensional, are fun, and each does their part to make Arthur Christmas enjoyable. Arthur, of course, is the highlight, but the rest of the characters are nearly equally memorable. And, unlike most animated films, the villain isn’t really evil. Instead, he just has a bit of a different agenda, as he’s more concerned with overall numbers rather than on the individual. Arthur, on the other hand, is a beacon of morally sound values that are usually lost in the shuffle of any big company.

As with most films these days, the action flies at the viewer rapidly. While the intro builds up the characters and the storyline well, the race to deliver the last present is set at a breakneck pace. That leaves viewers possibly a bit overwhelmed. But, with the jokes flying as fast as the action, the viewer will find themselves enjoying the furious pace. Sure, viewers might be a bit exhausted after the first viewing, but will find themselves looking back on the film fondly.

The storyline is the real star of Arthur Christmas. Showing how Santa has updated his operation for the times we live in is good all on it’s own. Adding in the obvious pokes at the over-commercialization of Christmas is an added bonus. Toss in the title character, who’s a bumbler with a heart of gold. Add in a story that promotes solid core values of kindness, honesty and selflessness. Mix it together correctly, and you get a family film that takes the Christmas joy of youth, and uses it to make a film that teaches good values even while the viewer enjoys themselves. That’s a rarity these days.

The animation is spot on. The characters are definitely comical looking, yet not over-the-top. The animation brings a lightheartedness that helps keep the story cheerful, even during dire sequences (not too dire, so no worries about death sequences or anything of that nature). There’s never a moment where the animation looks cheap or half-done, a must for any animated film these days.

Arthur Christmas, like recent favorite The Polar Express (2004), is all about bringing the magic back to Christmas. And, like that film, it succeeds on a level that few Christmas films do. The Christmas magic comes alive on-screen, and the effect is contagious. A movie sure to get nearly anyone in the Christmas spirit, Arthur Christmas should find itself getting re-visited year after year as part of a new holiday tradition.

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