December 3, 2011
Review - " Arthur Christmas " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Sarah Smith & Barry Cook
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim
Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Laura Linney, Ashley
Jensen, Marc Wooten, Joan Cusack, Robbie Coltrain
Creating Christmas movies can be a difficult and
thankless task. Get it wrong and your film goes down in
movie history with an air of “never to be seen again.”
Score and instantly the work can be thought of as a
Christmas classic. Arthur Christmas lands firmly in the
The movie answers the question: How does Santa
deliver billions of presents in one magical evening?
In Arthur Christmas, it is established that Santa Claus
is much like a royal family. We meet all the former
Santas through portraits of all the icons going back to
the dawn of time. Each serves for decades before
passing the mantle on to the first-born son. As Arthur
Christmas begins, Santa (Jim Broadbent) is rumored to
be retiring and his son Steve (Hugh Laurie) is more
than ready and able to take on the title for next
Arthur is a bit of a good-natured clumsy screw-up and
is relegated to the mail room answering Santa's mail.
He takes his job very seriously and goes at it with
gusto. Arthur LOVES everything to do with Christmas;
indeed, he is the only one in his family still captivated
by the magic of the holiday.
Steve has set up a military-type operation that is
efficient and technologically wired to the “T.” He has
more than established his ability to be the next Santa, commanding an army of elves that work much like Tom Cruise’s team
from the Mission Impossible films. Jim Broadbent as Santa, who pictures himself as the guy in charge at the North Pole, but is
now more of a figurehead as the operation has outgrown him.
The crux of the Arthur Christmas story comes as another successful evening of present delivery is completed, and Steve’s
little brother Arthur (James McAvoy) discovers one toy has not been delivered. The film’s next 80 minutes set in motion not
only a story, but characters we look forward to visiting each holiday season. When a wrapped bicycle destined for a little girl
in Cornwall turns out to have missed the big shipment, Arthur, determined that no child be left behind, goes on a rogue
mission to personally deliver the present with the help of his not-quite-with-it Grandsanta (a terrific Nighy) and his old-school
sleigh. The story of the heroic journey undertaken by Santa’s youngest son upon discovering an undelivered present may
dutifully hit all the seasonal emotional posts, but the route it chooses to take is anything but predictable.
McAvoy delivers a subtle performance as Arthur that is equally charming and charismatic, while still buffoonish to provide the
film with its many laughs. Also
amazing is Bill Nighy as Grand
Santa, current Santa’s father
and the zany patriarch of this
North Pole-based clan.
Hearing his characterization
of Grand Santa is a lesson
in voice acting taught by a
Arthur Christmas is aimed at
the youngsters in the audience
but adults will enjoy it almost
as much delivers laughs and a
big dollop of Christmas spirit.
I look forward to adding it to
my Christmas DVD collection
and watching it every