REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

24 12 2012

Arthur ChristmasSometimes, animated movies are so busy trying to be clever that they forget to be charming or – dare I say it – cute.  If they lack the effortless ease of Pixar and the occasional DreamWorks release, they seem to often think that the charm flows directly from the creativity.

Arthur Christmas” is all the evidence I need to believe that the hypothesis above isn’t true.  It puts a digital, industrial spin on the age-old Christmas story of Santa Claus delivering presents to children all over the world.  Moreover, it manages to make its version of the yearly phenomena both funny and plausible.

The opening scene, showing the delivery from the perspective of the elves frantically working in mission control to ensure a successful Christmas, was absolutely fantastic.  It’s ingenuity at its finest, and I was braced for a delightful ride full of holiday spirit.

But then the film shifted towards the family dynamics of the Claus family, led by the lazy patriarchal Santa Claus voiced by Jim Broadbent.  His son Steve (the voice of House – I mean, Hugh Laurie) is gunning hard for him to retire so he can fulfill his birthright.  Meanwhile, there’s Arthur (voice of James McAvoy) running around with an unfettered optimism and idealism, something his family shrugs off and attempts to marginalize.

“Arthur Christmas” depicts the wee hours of Christmas morning when the family fails.  Well, really, Santa fails first as one gift does not get delivered, and Arthur takes it upon himself to ensure it gets received.  Along with an overeager wrapping elf and his grandfather, a former Santa Claus (voiced by Billy Mack – I mean, Bill Nighy) that shares Arthur’s enthusiasm, their adventure is most definitely exciting.  But with weak characterization and an overemphasis on craftiness, “Arthur Christmas” is hardly a cup of Christmas cheer for all to enjoy.  C+2stars

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