barry cook

Movie Review: Arthur Christmas (2011)


Christmas comes but once a year and the season is never short of the movies that take advantage of the setting. There is any number of fresh takes on the legend of Santa and the responsibilities bestowed upon him and none have been quite as fun as in ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. All Christmas movies are fun in their own right, but right off the bat ARTHUR CHRISTMAS introduced a take on the character and how the world works in a way that I found charming and interesting, before tapering off in the middle and reeling me back in with good old fashioned heart for the finale.

Every kid’s worst nightmare around Christmas is being the kid Santa forgot around Christmas and that is the idea the film explores. Santa has evolved into more of a celebrity that doesn’t do any of the work and instead his eldest son, Steve, has created a well oiled present delivering machine in the form of a ship that travels at incredible speeds and hordes of elves operating with great precision to carry out all the normal Santa functions. Santa himself shows up to deliver one specific present to each child with the signature “From Santa” tag and moves on. However, Santa’s youngest son, Arthur, has a heart of gold and deals with all the letters from the children. After a simple accident within the ship ends with a present getting lost and a glitch in Steve’s system allows it to go un-noticed Arthur and his grandfather set out to make it right so that no child wakes up Christmas morning feeling like Santa does not care about them.

The beauty of ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is the imagination behind it. Beyond that, the icing on the cake is the care done to explore the wonder of exploring how things used to be and the overall tone and warm fuzzies that the Christmas season is capable of giving us all. The film starts off with a more modern look at how the folks at the North Pole have advanced with technology and how the advancements have made the process that much more mechanical and impersonal thus taking out the magic on some level. Once the adventure half of the film begins the wonderment of the season takes over, before getting lost somewhere in the middle just as characters do before wrapping itself up in a neat and tidy way- and as the elf character that tags along for the ride always says, “There’s always time for a bow.”

The animation is dazzling at times, showing off the imagination of the folks involved with the film especially during the opening gift delivering scene. There are plenty of moments though for the animation to get into different settings that don’t resemble the winter fantasy of the early scenes that are just as impressive as the more fantastic elements. There’s humor within the animation as well, which at times doesn’t feel as kid friendly as most holiday films tend to be.

As Christmas movies go, they tend to lean heavily on what makes kids tick and focus on jokes that are easy for them to understand. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS has jokes tailor fit for the kids in the audience, but there are plenty of one liners and visual references that are likely to fly right over their heads. So basically, what we end up with here is a holiday film with the goods to satisfy the old and the young, but not always both at the same time.

The scope of the film is large and the ambition might have been much narrower, yet the results nonetheless come out on the side of crowd pleasing entertainment that’s brisk and inoffensive. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS tends to feel a bit off-track at times, but when its on-track the film is immensely charming and a whole lot of fun to watch. The beautiful animation only sweetens the pot that much more for a film with its heart placed firmly in the right spot and a wonderful choice for family holiday viewing.

Rating: B+