If you love this time of the year, every Christmas apart from the over indulgence from the the Turkey dinner it’s probably the only time of the year we don’t mind watching the same old television programmes on the box, despite all the moans and groans. Everything from the Royal Family, The Snowman, Wallace and Gromit and that Dudley Moore Christmas flick Santa Claus The Movie, but we mustn’t forget It’s A Wonderful Life. Let’s look back to 2011 this film was out in the cinema but now 1 year later, it’s time to make space in your viewing pleasure, that’s Aardman Animations Arthur Christmas.
How can Santa (Jim Broadbent) deliver billions of presents to the children of the world in one night? Thanks to an army of one million combat style field elves and the state of the art control centre deep under the ice at the North Pole. Within Santa’s family his youngest son Arthur(James McAvoy) CEO of the whole operation sees the high tech centre along with the delivery method a threat to the true magic of Christmas. Despite the efficient running controlled by Steven (Hugh Laurie) who is also about to take over the reigns but the whole operation comes under threat when they miss one child. Only Arthur is prepared to put things right for the sake of the whole operation and with his retired grand Santa (Bill Nighy), a rebellious young elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen), an old sleigh, untrained reindeer they set out to deliver that last remaining present before the child awakens.
Arthur Christmas was the first film in the collaboration with Sony (the second been Pirates! Adventures With Scientists), it’s also the first Aardman in a long time to move away from the studios tradition clay-mation into computer style animation. This move gives the film a more of a Hollywood feel whilst still delivering the charm, inventiveness we expect from the studio.
The basic elements of the story are like many other Christmas films we’ve seen before :the unexpected hero saving the day but thanks to a cleverly constructed story by Peter Bayham and Sarah Smith they keep Arthur Christmas falling into the generic mediocre pitfalls previous yuletide affairs. You could even go as far as saying whilst the majority of the humour is aimed at the targeted younger audience there’s enough laughs to keep the adults smiling throughout as Bayham Smith background is not in Kids films but writing for Amando Inanucci, Steve Coogan, Borat. One thing the pair do well is write about things that are funny& entertaining not just for kids but for everyone and that’s the Aardman way!
What works really well in Arthur Christmas is the ability to merge modern day Christmas commercialism with elements of traditional Christmas spirit which Arthur is the face off. They do poke at the absurdities of the season as well as modern technology like sat navs but also we see that even Santa has to movie with the times but like much of the older generation puzzled with the complexities. The opening scene shows things have drastically changed with the Mission Impossible style scene introducing Santa’s little helpers the ever faithful hardworking Elves who make things tick, Santa’s sleigh is now a high tech spaceship!
Arthur Christmas is a wonderfully entertaining film for kids of all shapes and sizes, the attention to detail is second to none, the only time I’ve ever seen so much TLC into details has been in Japanese animation. If I was to pick out any negatives in the film it’s not the middle part or the ‘UFO Sleigh’ many critics have picked out but the terrible Justin Bieber song which sticks out like a sore thumb.
Arthur Christmas also boasts a stellar voice cast, a cast that many other studios would love to have with the 3 main characters shining through the most. Ashley Jensen as Bryony Christmas elf steals a few scenes and there’s always time for a bow. Bill Nighy’s Grand Santa who provides the comic relief for the parents with his Carry On Film style banter and as been a proud Chelsea pensioner too. As for James McAvoy you can’t say you don’t love Arthur’s charming infectious laugh? His nativity is hypnotic even when he’s annoying to his peers, interrupting the flow of the operation. But his innocence does reflect the true spirit of Christmas when it seems those around him have forgotten about that spirit. If you want a reminder how tacky Christmas can be you only have to look at Arthur’s reindeer slippers which are nothing but sublime!
When Arthur Christmas does make it’s debut on television for years to come the film will become one of those great films we’ll enjoy every Christmas but for now grab yourself a copy of the film on DVD or Blu-ray!
Animation, Adventure | UK, 2012 | U | DVD, Blu-Ray| 19th November 2012 (UK) | Sony Pictures HE | Dir: Sarah Smith, Barry Cook | James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent , Bill Nighy, Ashley Jensen |Buy: Blu-ray( + UV Copy) / DVD (+ UV Copy)