November 25, 2011
Reviewed by Marc Glassman
An Aardman production (Peter Lord & David Sproxton, producers)
Sarah Smith, director and co-script w/Peter Baynham
3-D computer animation featuring the voices of:
James McAvoy (Arthur), Hugh Laurie (Steve, Arthur’s arrogant older brother), Jim Broadbent (Santa), Bill Nighy (Grandsanta), Imelda Staunton (Mrs. Santa), Ashley Jensen (Briony, an elf), Joan Cusack (Mission Control Elf), Robbie Coltrane (Old Doom-laden Scottish elf), Michael Palin (Ernie Clicke), Andy Serkis (General Elf)
In a holiday season crowded with big budget children’s films, the talk is that the acclaimed Aardman Studio, most famous for the Wallace and Gromit films, has produced the best one: Arthur Christmas.
Holiday film; sci-fi thriller; family drama; comedy
Ever wonder how Santa Claus delivers presents to all the kids on Christmas Eve? Aardman provides the answer. In a bravura opening, Steve Claus, Santa’s uber-effective older son leads a staff of elves operating high tech machinery to guide ol’ Santa’s spaceship through his midnight ride.
There are only two problems: it’s joyless and the Claus X-mas gift operation missed Gwen, a dreamy English girl. Steve is willing to shrug it off as a statistical fluke and Santa goes to bed with the Missus.
Not younger brother Arthur Claus, as big a dreamer as Gwen, nor Grandsanta, the ever-bright 136-year-old. The ill-matched duo plus the elf Briony, pull out the ancient sleigh, tether up the reindeer and head off for Britain.
Only one problem remains: Grandsanta has lost his sense of direction. The old reindeer powered sleigh passes through Toronto (a big scene!), Mexico (muy grande), and other sites before crashing in the ocean.
Meanwhile back in the North Pole…the elves start to revolt against the Claus family because every child should be happy—including Gwen. Steve and Santa head off for England, belatedly. And the clock is ticking…
Will Steve deliver a present to Gwen? Will Santa? Or Arthur, the young true believer? Or will dawn arrive, leaving Gwen a sad outcast, a kid without a present?
Hey, this is a Christmas movie: what do you think happens?
The animation is great; this is Aardman, after all. The voices of British character actors James McAvoy (a properly ethereal Arthur), Hugh Laurie (a wonderfully pompous Steve), Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton (two Mike Leigh regulars, just right as Santa and Mrs. Claus), Bill Nighy (Grandsanta) and a host of others are terrific.
Let’s just call it an Aardman production—and say that it fits the Studio’s high standards.
The plot could have been tightened up quite a bit: the film loses direction around the time Grandsanta hits Toronto. That aside, this is a fine Christmas movie. Great for kids and their parents.