'Arthur Christmas' (UK Release: 11 Nov '11) // Words: Saam Das
I always find it concerning that the festive period begins so early. Case in point, Aardman's latest animated adventure 'Arthur Christmas' coming out approximately six weeks before its holiday namesake. Nonetheless, 'Arthur Christmas' duly carries outs its duties in evoking the "spirit of Christmas" and is likely to become a seasonal favourite for years to come.
Aardman's roots may have been in the fantastic stop-motion plasticine worlds of 'Wallace & Gromit' and 'Chicken Run' but their 2006 feature 'Flushed Away' also showed that they could hack it in a CGI environment. Five years on and 'Arthur Christmas' is their second fully CGI feature film, and the first in 3D.
The film's title refers to Arthur (James McAvoy), the bumbling but good-hearted son of Santa (Jim Broadbent), who undertakes a heroic journey to deliver a present to the one child in the whole wide world that Santa and his team unfortunately missed in their mammoth high-tech operation. Arthur has to contend with his non-plussed elder brother Steve (Hugh Laurie), whose obsession with military precision only goes so far - contrasting Arthur's firm belief that each and every child matters.
Unlike his commanding brother, Arthur is timid and clumsy but with a little encouragement and help from his grandfather, Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), the two embark on a reindeer-led voyage across the world to Cornwall in an attempt to deliver the missing present before dawn. I'm sure you can guess the outcome but it is, of course, the journey that illustrates the heart of the film.
I have a real soft spot for well-done "coming of age" films and 'Arthur Christmas' can certainly claim to have at least one foot in that category. We witness Arthur's struggle to rise to the challenge that he himself has fought to take on against embittered opposition - I'm sure we can all relate in one way or another.
The film isn't without its charm in other senses, however. There's tremendous imagination and wit in the opening scenes which depict just how Santa manages to deliver all those presents across the world in one night. Even with "exponential population growth". Okay, so some of the ideas are suspiciously familiar to the Tim Allen vehicle 'The Santa Clause' but 'Arthur Christmas' concerns itself far more with the characters for that to really matter.
The ending is unfortunately overly saccharine and suffers the double whammy for leading you into an atrocious Justin Bieber Christmas cover. And normally I don't really mind him. There's also some questionable and potentially sexist chat about Mrs Santa (Imelda Staunton) although women play an important role in the film overall. For the vast majority of 'Arthur Christmas', it's easy to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
'Arthur Christmas' is out in UK cinemas now.