Arthur Christmas

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: November 23, 2011
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The 3D, CG-animated family comedy Arthur Christmas, an Aardman production for Sony Pictures Animation, at last reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: 'So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But at the heart of the film is a story with the ingredients of a Christmas classic - a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero, Arthur, with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.

Based on the book: Arthur Christmas
Film Review
As any good Christmas tale should begin, Arthur Christmas starts with a small girl, Gwen, placing her letter to Santa in the corner mailbox. A tried and true tradition for children around the world she asks Santa for one special gift on Christmas--for Gwen it is a bike with stabilizers (known as training wheels in the States). Her letter is not read by Santa himself but his youngest son Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), who is in charge of letters at the North Pole facility. Facility is the correct word for what has become of Santa's workshop in the 21st Century. Mission Control is a huge room full of computers, large screen monitors that track Santa's progress around the globe on Christmas Eve and hundreds of Elves manning their stations. The second in command to Santa is his oldest son Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), who is expecting to become Santa for next year as every Santa has retired after his 70th Christmas, and this is his father's 70th time around the globe. Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) has other plans though, causing Steve to become disgruntled with his place at the Pole, while Arthur basks in knowing his father is remaining Santa as he see his father as the greatest Santa there ever was.

When one package is discovered to not have been delivered, and this package belongs to Gwen, Steve and Santa both believe it is of no concern. Statistically speaking the mission was a success, with a less than 1% of packages not delivered; Gwen will get her gift a few days late and that is perfectly okay with them. Arthur does not agree, nor does his GrandSanta (voiced by Bill Nighy), and they dust off the old sleigh, take the Reindeer out of retirement, sprinkle some magic dust, and set off a wild adventure to deliver Gwen her gift by Christmas morning England time--they also have a stowaway along with them for the ride, master wrapper Elf Bryony (voiced by Ashley Jensen) who can wrap any gift with three pieces of sticky tape, just three!

The adventure for Arthur, GrandSanta and Bryony is full of ups and downs, literally. They also set the world into a panic when they appear on radar, and are assumed to be an alien spaceship. In true Christmas fun and spirit they travel through city after city, trying to self-navigate their way around the world causing hilarious ruckus the entire way. They see Canada, Africa, Idaho, and even Latin America. A path of destruction follows them wherever they go because GrandSanta is rusty behind the sleigh controls and Arthur is deathly afraid of flying--and when the sleigh goes 50,000 miles per hour it is definitely a wild ride for all of them. Arthur Christmas is a sweet family movie about a bumbling lead character who truly believes in the magic of Christmas. He will have everyone else believing in it too after watching the great lengths he goes to in order to make sure no child is left without a present on Christmas morning. Arthur Christmas is a great movie for the entire family that is full of laughter, love, and a whole lot of adventure.
Arthur Christmas is presented in 3D or 2D--opt for the 2D because you will not be missing anything. That said, the animator's at Aardman (Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away) have let their imagination's run wild with the script for Arthur Christmas, written by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith, who also directs. The upgrades that have occurred at the North Pole are staggering. Mission Control is made out of ice, with computers, monitors, sonar devices, and radar everywhere. This is not your father's North Pole operation. The sleigh has been replaced by a huge spaceship that looks like it was plucked out of Star Trek; Santa has his own bright red "Enterprise". The first image of the spaceship occurs from below, with all the twinkling lights and the Elves that depart from it to assist Santa with the gift giving to children propelling down to the ground like a Marine squadron. No longer are chimney's used, it is a mechanized operation full of gadgets to make sure everything is done smoothly and timely. The animators create a very modernized science-fiction-esque world for a new generation of children and it looks incredible.

Arthur Christmas is not all about the new and shiny, as the story soon moves past displaying the technological advances the North pole has made and brings back the near and dear sleigh and reindeer. Santa's sleigh glides through the clouds, the reindeer prancing on the air, and the viewer's eyes feast on the beautiful colors of the Aurora Borealis in the night sky. The sleigh is full of its own tricks that may not be as fancy as the "Enterprise" but they are great in their own way. A favorite would be the cloaking device which turns the sleigh into a choo-choo train. There are an abundance of animated delights to be found in Arthur Christmas, right down to the festive slippers Arthur wears on his adventure, to the crafty work by Bryony who wraps Gwen's bike while Arthur is riding it in a frenzy of fast frames.

Animation, Children and Family, Comedy
Release Date
November 23, 2011
MPAA Rating
Production Designer
Music Score