Posted October 19, 2011 by Jack Jones in Films
 
 

Arthur Christmas


In the canon of Christmas films there’s hardly a grand selection to choose from that encapsulate the festive spirit of this most loved/hated time of the year.

In the canon of Christmas films there’s hardly a grand
selection to choose from that encapsulate the festive spirit of this most
loved/hated time of the year.

But what about Frank Capra’s timeless classic It’s
a Wonderful Life
? A classic indeed, though it is a little strange that a
film that largely revolves around a man contemplating whether or not to kill
himself is considered the pinnacle of Yuletide cinema. Expect nothing of this
dark sort in Arthur Christmas however which is, at best, a frivolous
seasonal film for parents to take their baying children to and, at worst ,a bit
of a scrappy, irritating mess.

In the ilk of Arnold
Schwarzenegger
’s ghastly festive-pic Jingle
All The Way
, Arthur Christmas has
a peculiarly materialistic perspective on Christmas where presents and gifts
are seemingly the only things that make children happy at Christmas – what a
cruddy time those who don’t get anything must have! And like Jingle All The Way
there are some set-piece action sequences that will please the youngsters no
end. But for all of Aardman Animations
previous brilliance and despite being a computer animated 3-D ‘fantasy’, Arthur
Christmas is all rather dull and
uninvolving.

On a more positive note, the opening sequence of Santa’s
delivery of presents across the globe staged as a military type operation is
imaginative and great fun, Santa an idle passenger on this overwhelming
high-tech mission carried out by his army elves. In fact, the elves are the most interesting characters with
their obsessions with wrapping paper, sticky tape and bows. Yet when the narrative opens up into a
race against the clock to deliver a misplaced present, much of the early
novelty is lost in all the madness that ensues.

There is something sweet however about Arthur’s enthusiasm,
which incidentally works as a perfect foil to the crotchety Grandsanta who is
far more attached to the traditional image of Christmas and positive attitude
towards the true spirit of being Santa Claus. Kids will also be attracted to his general buffoonery and
clumsiness if in truth he is a quite annoying after an hour or so. And despite having a whole host of great
British acting talent such as Jim
Broadbent
, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, James McAvoy and Hugh Laurie
at its disposal, there is little in the way of festive magic to spark this film
into life.

Even though modern technology has taken us into the visual
‘wonders’ of 3-D, there is none of the depth or intrigue of Aardman’s
stop-motion clay animation that was so popular with Wallace & Gromit or
even Chicken Run. Neither is there
the cute references or subtle humour that Nick
Park
and his Oscar-winning team had us all rolling over in laughter at what
was simply ‘a man and his dog’ comedy. Instead what we have is Arthur Christmas, a very loud and manic creation with
none of the nuance or dark vagaries that the Christmas period actually inhabits.
One suspects this will be one of this year’s most successful Christmas films
but in the long run it will be a greatly forgettable film, disposable in
comparison to the enduring power of true Christmas classics such as It’s a
Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, or
even Nativity!


Jack Jones