Review: Arthur Christmas

This is the first feature film animated by Aardman animation (the team most famous for creating the Wallace and Gromit franchise) since 2006’s ‘Flushed Away’, a film about rats in the sewers of London, which was not a massive success despite it’s all-star cast. This time around Aardman have gone for a much more universal theme: How does santa deliver presents to children all over the world in a single night?

The most controversial thing about the design of Arthur Christmas is that they have completely left behind the typical Aadman character hallmarks, such as the plasticine look with their thin heads with wide mouths and googly eyes. Instead it looks just like any other Dreamworks style (or in this case, Sony Pictures) animated film. Luckily though, there are a lot of the Aardman nods towards other films and the scenery is covered with small gags that might require you to watch it a couple of times to find them all.

All this taken into account; the characters in the film are well crafted with a strong voice cast including the titular Arthur, played by James McAvoy, the naive younger child of the current Santa (Jim Broadbent). Arthur is a bit of a clot and is in charge of answering letters to Santa. Steve (Hugh Laurie) is Arthur’s older brother and next in line to succeed his father as Santa. He is actually the brains in the family who has designed the giant space ship in which Santa and Steve; as well as a myriad ‘combat elves’ traverse the planet, and has mechanised the gift-giving procedure, reducing Santa to a figure-head.

The story revolves around the only girl who is missed out from receiving a present on Christmas Eve. Steve sees this as a successful mission nonetheless as missing just one person is the best result in the history of the Claus’. Arthur can’t let it go and along with Grandsanta, voiced by Bill Nighy, and a stowaway elf (Ashley Jensen) he strives to deliver the girl’s bike to her before sunrise the old-fashioned way. They steal away in the old sleigh pulled by reindeer…and get horribly lost, attacked by lions, spark a global terror threat and get mistaken for aliens amongst many other things.

I feel that some of the material may go over the heads of younger children and it seemed to lack a lot of the charm of previous Aardman animations. However, it is a heartwarming tale of Christmas hope delivered by well designed characters and a brilliant voice cast via a funny and, at times, touching script and not the worst Christmas film ever made by a long stretch. Plus, it’s nice to hear Hugh Laurie speak in an English accent again!

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