Arthur Christmas (2011)
Directed by: Barry Cook, Sarah Smith
Written by: Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
Starring: Ashley Jensen, Bill Nighy, Eva Longoria, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Joan Cusack, Laura Linney, Marc Wootton, Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane
Helped by his army of elves, Father Christmas carries out his seventieth successful mission and returns to the North Pole, where his younger son Arthur is a clumsy but good natured oaf relegated to answering children’s letters to Santa, and his older son Steve manages the operation but secretly wants to be Santa himself. However, when an elf finds an undelivered present, a bike supposed to be for a girl named Gwen, it’s obvious a mistake has been made, but only Arthur seems to be keen on rectifying the issue. Terribly distraught, he is stopped from retreating to his room by grumpy old Grandsanta, who still has his old sleigh from the days when he used to be Santa, and used to deliver presents almost on his own without all the gadgetry used in the4 present. Maybe then can get the bike to Gwen before she wakes up, but the son is due to rise in two hours……………..
After the wonderful Flushed Away, I could not wait for the next collaboration between Aardman Animations and a major studio, and this co-production with Sony is another hugely enjoyable animated family movie that exudes the Christmas spirit from every corner but largely avoids slush and is the best purely Yuletide film to come out in a long time. Highly inventive, it begins with a stunning set piece with Santa and his ninja-like army of elves delivering thousands of presents as a kind of commando operation, and which cleverly answers questions such as; how does he deliver so many presents over such a short period of time? What does Santa do when a child wakes up? And how does he get presents into highly ‘secure’ buildings like the White House?. The film’s hero straight away comes across as more irritating than sweet, but the script nicely sets up a conflict between the new and the old ways of doing things, and even comments on today’s over use of ever more elaborate technology. When Arthur and Grandsanta sets off on their mission and find themselves in a variety of locales, from Mexico to Tanzania, Arthur Christmas settles into a more conventional adventure and loses some of the invention of the early scenes, but, though not as joke-packed as Flushed Away, sstill delivers some nice laughs, some exciting action set pieces and a great race-against-time climax. I’m a bit of a cynical old sod who is not too fond of Christmas, but, come the end of Arthur Christmas, even I felt rather warm and cuddly inside.