Arthur Christmas will please all ages
With voices by Hugh Laurie, James McAvoy, and Jim Broadbent. Rated G.
Yes, Virginia, even the Santa clan has its family dysfunction. In the Wallace & Gromit creators' wildly imaginative and gently funny Arthur Christmas, St. Nick’s first-born son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), is an efficiency expert who runs December 24th deliveries like a military operation.
In a thrilling, 3-D opening sequence that plays like Mission: Impossible, he sends out legions of elves armed with high-tech gadgets to transport gifts around the globe. He also directs his dad, the real Santa, aboard a sleek red spaceship. His father is tiring of it all, and Steve impatiently waits for him to hand over the reindeer reins. He holds even more disdain for his younger sibling, Arthur (James McAvoy), who sits in an office lovingly answering children’s cards. Outfitted in tacky Christmas sweaters and reindeer slippers, Arthur is hopelessly into the holiday spirit.
Arthur seems to be the only one who cares when it’s discovered that one gift hasn’t been delivered. He teams up with his toothless, retired Grandsanta in a creaky sleigh pulled by reindeer the old guy calls Dasher, Prancer, Bambi, and You Over There. Helped by an adorable Scottish-lass elf (Ashley Jensen), they head out toward the child’s home.
The laughs will please all ages, but they aren’t the huge ones you get in American cartoons. Neither is the story here sugarplum-coated (note Steve tapping away on his HoHo 3000 smartphone during the Claus family dinner). Still, Arthur Christmas really does achieve mission impossible: reinventing the Santa story and doing it with stunning visual digital invention, from the massive North Pole mission control to a sleigh that zooms through icebergs.
If there’s a quibble, it’s that Arthur Christmas is so bent on reimagining the familiar that it’s chosen to make St. Nick himself a doddery, lazy old fart who seems to love his mincemeat pie more than his own kids. Hey, we can buy a little family dysfunction, but really? Who wants to think of Santa as a Class A jerk?
Watch the trailer for Arthur Christmas.