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“Arthur Christmas” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

November 20, 2011

“Arthur Christmas” may appear to be another holiday fair for the kiddies, but far from it. Lead by strong British cast, witty British humor, from a clever British script, made by the British company (Aardman) who created “Wallace & Gromit”, this Brit-fueled comedy is not only one of the best animated films of it’s genre it’s also one of the best animated films of the year!

Many films have explored the Santa Claus lore before, countless times, and for some they can be a hit or miss. “Arthur Christmas” takes a newer approach, treating the Claus family as that dysfunctional family and placing them on a Star Trek Enterprise-like Sleigh (the S-1) to navigate the 24th of December with a mission to complete the delivery of toys for over 4 billion children all over the world. The ‘science’, if you will, may not be 100% supportive, regarding how Santa & his army of elves travel the world, but how the movie’s presented to us, you really don’t care that much about it, and soon enough you get caught up in everything else that you forget about it. The visual of the “Independence Day” ship size sleigh will leave the audience in aw, especially in 3D, this was one of the few animated 3D movies this year that works perfectly for 3D.

The age-old question is answered: How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?’ Santa’s (Jim Broadbent) exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole is that very answer. At the heart of ‘Operation: Santa’ is a story with the ingredients of a classic Christmas film, a family in a state of dysfunction. Oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), is the man with a plan, who’s prepping to be the next Santa while maintaining disciplined order on his ship, the S-1. Then there’s the young, naive, yet sweet Arthur (James McAvoy), who works in the Letters to Santa Department, his outlook on Christmas & his father is a magical & hopeful one at best. Arthur becomes an unlikely hero, with an urgent mission to deliever one missed child’s pink bicycle before the sun rises on Christmas morning. He teams up with his crazy old Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) whose soul purpose is to prove to everyone that you don’t need fancy technology to deliver presents.

While I’m sure kids will eat this movie up for every amount of visual charm it has, I don’t think they’ll quite appreciate the humor it was going for. The movie has some of the most intense dry sense of British humor I’ve seen in a children’s film, especially an animated one. Some of the best lines of dialogue came from Grandsanta. Bill Nighy is an absolute scream when he’s cast in a comedic role, we’ve seen it before in “Hot Fuzz” & “Shaun of the Dead”. Aardman’s style of comedy is extremely cheeky in the sense of its choice of tongue and cheek gags. There’s one moment in the movie where the audience even gasped at what Grandsanta says about women & reading. I love it that Aardman isn’t afraid to make any punches at the audience without insulting their intelligence. Beneath the silliness of it all, the movie still finds it’s sentimental spot to bring the audience in. emotionally The family values of the Claus family are so crucial, and finding that balance at the end of third Act is extremely gratifying.

I love  me a good British/Scottish cast in a comedy, especially when you have the likes of James McAvoy, Billy Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Ashley Jensen, Imelda Staunton, Robbie Coltrane, & Michael Palin. There’s even room to fit in some familiar American voices like, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, and Joan Cusack. Everyone voicing had the right vocal performance to feed life into each character the best way the filmmakers knew how. It’s one of those movies you could have a blast with, especially thanks to the perfect casting choices. James McAvoy’s performance is by far the best, he’s played such innocent characters before, but giving an almost child-like sense of the word was extremely rewarding. Again, Bill Nighy will be the talk at the dinner table after viewing the movie.

All in all, I’d say see “Arthur Christmas”. It’s a rare treat where an animated Christmas movie turns out to be one of the best animated movies of the year, kids will enjoy it and parents will get a kick out of it, plus fans of British humor will have a ball with it too.

GRADE: A-

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