MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Arthur Christmas is an entertaining piece of festive family entertainment. It presents Aardman Animations second entry into the world of digital animation following 2006’s Flushed Away, having made a name for themselves with stop-motion gems such as Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Although digital animation will struggle to present the same work intensive beauty as stop-motion (although it’s certainly not impossible), Arthur Christmas at least captures some of its innocence with a sense of fun.
Arthur Christmas is voiced by James McAvoy, who rather overcooks the character’s virtuousness by sounding slightly irritating. Arthur is the younger son of Santa (Jim Broadbent), considered a bit of a wimp and never taken very seriously as part of the gigantic North Pole operation and instead Arthur replies to letters written in from children. The ‘Santa Claus operation’ is really operated by older son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), a figure who casts the shadow of a military general and whose efforts to streamline and modernize the duties of his father cause the greatest laughs and antagonism of the movie. When it’s discovered that the technological operation fails to deliver a present to a single child (voiced by Outnumbered‘s Ramona Marquez), Arthur is greatly upset and sets off on a quest along with the retired Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) to try and get the gift to the girl before sunrise. Maybe it shows what a big Outnumbered fan I am, but I could certainly have done with more of Ramona Marquez who is unfortunately painfully underused. As such an expression-filled child actress she suits voice acting wonderfully.
I’ll tell you right now that you don’t need to see this in 3D because it looks lovely in 2D. But doThere’s a lot of details to take in, maybe not to the same extent as Wallace and Gromit but there’s an awful lot of background humour to keep the mind busy and not detract from the main narrative. There’s a very good running gag regarding how Steve is trying to bring Santa into the 21st century through computerization and mass scale production. Unfortunately the storyline regarding Arthur isn’t quite as compelling and he feels a bit of a drip. The entire plot is incredibly predictable and even the 6 year olds in the audience will have it figured out but then again it is utterly wholesome and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the storyline does drag, however, and it does sometimes feel like a 30 minute Christmas day TV special extended to a feature length film.
Maybe I’m taking it too literally but the utter disregard for time zones was a rather grating contrivance. It’s unlikely to break any new ground but it’s busy and vibrant and will certainly keep kids and adults entertained for 90 minutes, although I must say mid-November still feels rather too early to be getting into the Christmas spirit. Santa Claus isn’t quite coming to town just yet.
Arthur Christmas is out now in the UK and out on 23rd November in the US. Running time: 97 mins. Certificate U (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank