Whether you ever believed in Santa Claus or not, you’ll find Arthur Christmas is a charming animation film about how Santa manages to deliver so many presents around the world in one single night. The movie suggests that in a high-tech factory buried deep in the North Pole, an army of elves works tirelessly to wrap each and every gift and send it off to the kid who requested it.
Santa himself (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is an old man now, nearing retirement. So it’s his older son Steve (Hugh Laurie) who runs the operation with military-style precision, while klutzy younger son Arthur (James McAvoy) is given the job of responding to children’s letters in the mailroom. Everything’s going according to plan in this impersonal but efficiently run ‘corporation’, until it is learnt that they forgot to deliver a gift to a little girl in a remote Engish village. Even as Steve and his surprisingly indifferent father shrug their shoulders and decide it’s too bad one child will have to go present-less this holiday, enthusiastic Arthur gathers his grandfather, the retired Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) and sets off to deliver that one remaining gift the old fashioned way – on a reindeer-led sleigh, dashing through the snow and deserts and skies.
Cleverly written and beautifully rendered in 3D, Arthur Christmas is warm and funny and sarcastic in equal measure. The writers toss around some interesting ideas here, and the voice work by the cast is top-class. It’s a cheery little gem with a heartfelt message that every child is important. There are some thrilling set-pieces including an encounter with lions in the heart of an African jungle, and the final moments of the film are so moving you’ll find a lump in your throat.
Very different from the typically straight-up broad humor of Pixar films, Arthur Christmas comes with distinctly droll British humor, a trademark of Aardman Animations, the studio that previously gave us the excellent clay-animation film, Wallace and Gromit.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for “Arthur Christmas”. It’s a rollicking film with a surprisingly soft heart. Pity they didn’t release it during the holidays. Don’t miss it if you’re a fan of animation!