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Arthur Christmas - Movie Review
By Anthony Archis - November 22, 2011

Arthur Christmas
Arthur Christmas
 
Arthur Christmas
Arthur Christmas
 
Arthur Christmas
Arthur Christmas
 
Arthur Christmas
Arthur Christmas
Christmas themed movies are subject to a certain cinematic stigma of being considered kitschy, and generally, only enjoyable around the holidays. Growing up, Christmas was by far my favorite time of year, not just because of presents (though admittedly, they helped), but the whole atmosphere that surrounded it. It’s snowing outside and the tree is lit up; that mental picture can help many get into a holiday mindset. That being said, Arthur Christmas is one of those holiday movies that actually helps to create that very holiday spirit I speak of. Arthur Christmas succeeds in capturing the holiday atmosphere, effectively highlighting all of those elements of Christmastime that tend to go by the wayside, especially in this age of Black Friday and e-commerce.

Arthur Christmas is the story of the titular character Arthur and his strong belief in the magic of Christmas. With what Arthur Christmas initially portrays as a throwaway job, Arthur has one of the most important jobs at the North Pole, at least if you’re a kid. Arthur is the son of the “current” Santa Claus (in the world of Arthur Christmas, the title of “Santa” is passed along within the Claus family), toiling away in the North Pole’s mail department. Arthur performs the thankless task of reading various letters that children mail to Santa Claus. It is in this seemingly menial job that the plot of Arthur Christmas hinges. When one of the presents that Santa is set to deliver is lost in process, it is discovered during post-delivery cleanup in the North Pole. While most are content with letting the error go, Arthur pursues the noble cause of delivering the gift (a bicycle) to a little girl named Gwen.

However, Santa's operation is not the typical setup that childhood has prepared us for, but rather a high tech operation. In Arthur Christmas, elves act as covert operatives, traveling around the world in a state-of-the-art airship called the S-1. With Arthur's brother, the likely heir to the title of “Santa Claus,” running the show from the North Pole, their holiday operation is the height of gift-giving efficiency. However, it is one misstep that drives Arthur to deliver Gwen her bicycle, and with the help of his grandfather, Grandsanta, Arthur sets on an adventure to deliver this lost gift.

As with many modern animated films, Arthur Christmas boasts an all-star cast of voice talent. James McAvoy stars as Arthur and Hugh Laurie (House) does the voice of Arthur’s favored brother, Steve. Harry Potter fans may also recognize the voices of Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton as Santa and Mrs. Claus, respectively. The standout performance that stole the show in Arthur Christmas was that of Bill Nighy as the Grandsanta. Nighy combines the right amount of old school logic with enough sentimental value appropriate to traditional holiday movies. As a holiday bonus with the Arthur Christmas theatrical release (in movie theatres), the audience will get to see a Justin Bieber music video featuring Bieber’s version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

To its credit, Arthur Christmas has no wasted effort in that the movie is well paced and every scene has a purpose for moving the story along. There is plenty of Christmas sentiment to go around in Arthur Christmas. Arthur’s brother Steve is obsessed with being the new Santa, and he is focused on the overall work. Steve ends up losing sight of the meaning of Christmas, which ultimately is that everyone should be happy. Arthur's determination to give Gwen her Christmas gift of a new bicycle is the stuff that can make any Grinch's heart grow three times its size.

The animation style in Arthur Christmas is well done and engaging, and full of kids’ stuff for the holidays, such as the impressive opening sequence in which Santa and the elves deliver presents on Christmas Eve. The animation in Arthur Christmas also evokes memories of the stop motion films of generations past. As with most movies that fall into the holiday genre, Arthur Christmas can lay it on a bit thick in some scenes, especially harkening to the “true meaning of Christmas,” though that is not necessarily a bad thing.

We all may grow out of the childlike joys of Christmas at some point in our lives, but Arthur Christmas has enough cheer sprinkled throughout its storyline to bring that enthusiasm back, at least for a little while. Arthur Christmas doesn’t forget to entertain adults, with enough jokes for grown up viewers to appreciate (Google Earth reference anyone?).

Yes, Arthur Christmas falls into the same sentimental kitsch that most holiday movies do. However, for those who love getting into the Christmas and holiday spirit, complete with all of the clichés, Arthur Christmas is the movie to see. If not, there is always Justin Bieber’s rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” in 3D.

Arthur Christmas
Rated PG. Runtime 98 min. Theatrical release 11/23/2011.
PR.com Rating: B


Arthur Christmas - Movie Review


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