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Arthur Christmas

November 30, 2011

It’s that time of the year once again; when families gather together to embellish their homes in lights and unnecessary ornaments in order keep up with the Jones.’ When shoppers pepper spray each other just to be the first to buy an Xbox for half the price, when every bit of money that can be squeezed from consumers most definitely is. Only then do we remember that Christmas is upon us. Amidst the myriad holiday films making its way to the box office this year, Sarah Smith’s Arthur Christmas has exceeded my expectations to be a notable and truly heartening film that upholds the spirit of Christmas. Arthur Christmas is one of those films that just compel audience members to feel good by the end, as if there’s a light at the end of the consumer driven tunnel and Christmas can actually have the same magic it once did in days of the past.

Arthur (James McAvoy) is the jolly good-natured but gawky youngest son of Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent). As a descendant in a long line of Claus,’ Arthur finds pleasure in reading and responding to every letter written to his father while trying his best to spread holiday cheer to his family and Elf co-workers. Santa, on the other hand, finds himself jaded with the business of being Santa Claus and only enjoys eating his weight in minced meat pies and sleeping while his older and much more professional son Steve (Hugh Laurie) runs the family business in hopes of becoming the next Santa once his father retires. Steve’s technologically driven and nearly flawless operating maximizes the efficiency of present delivery, however, due to a minor hitch he and his Elves forget to deliver one present of an English child on Christmas Eve.  Determined to show the child that Santa exists and hasn’t forgotten her, Arthur sets out on an adventure with his Grand Santa (Bill Nighy) and a tenacious Elf, Bryony (Ashley Jensen), to save the spirit of Christmas for humanity.

Arthur Christmas is a genuinely enjoyable film. Its story is unique and refreshing with an impressive amount of character development for a family film. Its major drama doesn’t just revolve around Arthur’s attempt to travel from the North Pole to England to deliver the forgotten child’s bicycle, but it also focuses on issues of the dysfunctional Claus family as each major character must confront their own short comings and how it affects their loved ones. Addicted to the pride and status that comes with being Santa Claus, Arthur’s father is challenged by the fact that he chooses his job over his family while Steve battles with the need to overcompensate in his job to impress his father. All the film’s major characters are remarkably developed but the film’s major strength and highlight is Arthur’s grandfather and former Santa Claus himself, Grand Santa. A drunken, bitter and jaded old man, Grand Claus is easily responsible for the film’s wittiest and funniest moments as he gripes about the good old days before GPS’ and the modernization of Canada as well as his responsibly in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Intended to be viewed in 3D, Arthur Christmas’ weakest aspect is not being a 2D film as its 3D does nothing for the film except make me curse under my breath at the extra few dollars I had to spend to watch it. The 3D for Arthur Christmas is mediocre at best with most of the effects being your typical “ooh I can almost touch that” reaction. At times I even forgot the film was in 3D as it appeared to be nothing more than really good high-definition. That’s not to say that the film’s animation is lacking in any way however, the animation for Arthur Christmas is impressive and contains in-depth and wonderful detail to the images. However, the idea of the film being in 3D was a weak and pointless one that reminded me that 3D is only a means for capital gain.

Despite its unnecessary 3D, Arthur Christmas is good although not great. It doesn’t hold a candle to animation films before it nor to previous Christmas films, however, it’s a unique and funny tale that draws audiences in. It’s an intelligent story that has enough zingers and cultural references for adults to laugh or smirk at while being filled with childish charm and goof y moments to keep children entertained. I’m a sucker for animation films and I tend to cry in nearly every one of them that I see and Arthur Christmas was no exception. Although the tears didn’t flow they definitely welled and I left the theaters feeling good about the season. Christmas has seemed to have lost its flare in the past few years but Arthur Christmas was able to make me forget all the cynicism I have about the holiday and actually made me feel a glimmer of hope that this year the feeling of Christmas will return. Although it’s not a film that I would suggest others go out and spend money on, it is one that I suggest others actually see at some point whether through the movie channel or an illegal download.

SEE IT. But don’t be an a-hole and rush like Black Friday shoppers, it’s not that big of a deal.

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