Today: April 19, 2024

Arthur Christmas DVD

What makes a great kids’ Christmas movie?

What makes
a great kids’ Christmas movie?
If it is to appeal to children and adults alike and follow
in the footsteps of classics like The
Snowman
and A Christmas Story,
then it needs to have sharp humour, loveable characters and a strong dose of
warm Christmas magic. Last year’s
animated Christmas offering Arthur
Christmas
from Aardman Animations tries
fervently to adhere to these themes with an original idea. While its heart is in the right place,
it soon starts to become something that must be endured rather than
enjoyed.

Arthur Christmas presents a world where the role of Santa is
passed down through generations of the Christmas family. There is Grandsanta, followed by the
current Santa and then his two sons, Steve and Arthur. The current Santa (Jim Broadbent) has lost enthusiasm for his
important role. Steve (Hugh Laurie) has taken control and the
delivery of presents on Christmas Eve as a tightly controlled military
operation, with sleigh replaced by spaceship and elves at the ready on mission
control (if only Royal Mail were this efficient). Meanwhile youngest son, the geeky and clumsy Arthur (James McAvoy), answers Santa’s letters in the
Letter Department of this Christmas operation. With the help of elf, Bryony (Ashley Jensen), he discovers that one present has been overlooked
and makes it his mission to deliver this last present before Christmas morning
so one child will not be disappointed and lose their faith in Santa. It soon becomes clear that the magic of
Christmas has been lost through the Santa generations. While Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) remains nostalgic for Christmases past, the current Santa
and son Steve have lost sight of what Christmas is all about. The only one oozing with Christmas
spirit is Arthur.

The opening sequence of the film is full of promise, with
Steve ensuring that Santa and his elves get all the gifts delivered in one
night. The elves use high tech
scanners to determine if a kid is naughty or nice and code red alarms sound if a
child starts to wake. Every measure is taken in true commando
fashion to ensure that Santa is never seen. It is after this opening sequence that the film starts to
drift in to a lengthy drawn-out story:
one that is unlikely to keep the kids (or adults) engaged.

The characters in Arthur Christmas are quirky and funny and
the stars chosen to voice them are excellent. You can’t help but love the elves and
their obsession with gift-wrapping.
Arthur is an endearing and goofy protagonist, with his festive jumper
and slippers and unyielding Christmas spirit. With their antics and determination, Arthur and his granddad
make a great duo – in fact it is Grandsanta who is the other stand out
character. Displaying a range of
medals on his Santa suit, he regales his days of delivering presents as if they
were war stories in true ‘them were the days’ fashion. The best one-liners in the film come
from him: ‘Come on lad, you’re as
much use as a cheese chopstick’ and ‘We’ll be back in the wobble of a
reindeer’s buttocks.’ Aside from
the main cast, Arthur Christmas has a veritable sackful of stars voicing the
characters. Amongst the others are
Robbie Coltrane, Laura Linney, Joan Cusack and Michael
Palin
. Goodness knows why they
all signed up for this film in particular as really it is an abundance of top
talent wasted on a film that does not quite work the way it should.

In many ways it does seem like this film is trying to emulate
the character shapes and features of Disney
/ Pixar
animations, with the spindly legs and bulbous noses. The animation is nice to look at but is
still no match for the likes of Brave
or Laika’s ParaNorman. We cannot
help but expect more from the brains and talent behind the hilarious antics and
simple, stop motion excellence of Wallace
and Gromit
and Creature Comforts. Even the subtle nods to their other
works, like Santa accidentally stepping on a squeaky Shaun the Sheep toy, does
not redeem the long winded story.

Arthur Christmas might provide elements of the traditional Christmas
film in an original way but it is not snappy enough to stand the test of time
against the Christmas classics. If
you want the kids to feel the magic of Christmas, aim for Santa Claus: The Movie
or Miracle on 34th Street,
or A Christmas Story for unrivalled
festive humour. Alternatively we
can hope that this year’s yuletide cinema offering of Rise of the Guardians can fill us with Christmas cheer.

Misha Wallace - Social Media Editor

From the age of 4, Misha Wallace became transfixed by movies like Halloween and The Birds from behind the couch, unbeknownst to her family. This has developed in to an obsession with fantasy and horror films (and a considerable number of cheesy 80s and 90s flicks – but she will not be judged). If she was a character in a film she'd be the girl at the end of a horror movie, doused in blood but grinning victorious. Email: misha.wallace@filmjuice.com or find her any time of the day or night on FilmJuice social media.

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