How does Santa deliver presents to all the children of the world in one night? It’s a conundrum we’ve all pondered and while spoilsport scientists have tried to say it’s impossible as he’d have to go faster than the speed of light, the fact is he can do because he’s magic. However he might also have a lot of technology on his side, which is what Arthur Christmas suggests.
Santa (Jim Broadbent) no longer drives a small sleigh with a few reindeer. Instead he has what looks like an enormous spaceship, and while he personally delivers to the best kid in each community, there are millions of elves who help out with all the rest, delivering presents, eating mince pies and making it look like Rudolph took a bite out of the carrot. While Santa travels the globe, back at the North Pole his eldest son Steve is manning the operations room, making sure everything runs smoothly. There’s also another brother, Arthur (James McAvoy), who probably love Christmas most of all, but he isn’t the heir apparent to the Santa dynasty like Steve, and so he gets sidelined and treated as a bit of a nuisance.
When Santa gets home, everything seems to have gone well, except that there’s a pesky ‘1’ left on the computers, as a single child hasn’t gotten a present. Steve thinks it’ll be impossible to get that one kid their gift in time and Santa seems to agree, but Arthur is horrified and can’t stop thinking about this poor little girl who’ll get a miserable Christmas morning through no fault of her own. He ends up teaming up with his grandfather (Bill Nighy), who used to be the main Santa many years ago, to take the old sleigh out and head to Mimosa Avenue, Trelew, to deliver the pressie. However it’s certainly not plain sailing (or flying) as while they need Trelew in Cornwall, they end up in a similarly named town in Mexico. It’s going to be a far more difficult trip than they imagined, and they only have a few hours before the sun rises on the little girls’ Christmas.
As we’ve come to expect from Aardman, Arthur Christmas is witty, silly and anchored by a sweet story that’ll warm your heart. There are times when the rather peripatetic story feels like it’s racing round the world a bit too fast and frenetically, but this does ensure that if there’s a bit you don’t think works – such as a brief sojourn in Africa – Arthur, Grandsanta and elf Bryony will be off doing something else pretty quickly. And it all leads to a moving ending that’ll leave you with a big smile on your face.
Whoever was in charge of putting the voice cast together also deserves major kudos, as everyone is absolutely perfect. Hugh Laurie may not be everyone’s first thought for Santa’s son, but he’s perfect as the technology loving Steve, who sees Christmas as a magnificent organisational feat rather than being about bringing joy to youngsters. Likewise James McAvoy is wonderful as the rather clumsy Arthur, who may not have the brains of his brother but has absolutely the right idea about Christmas. Likewise Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent and Ashley Jensen are also superb.
As you’d expect for a CG movie, the Blu-ray offers a crystal clear, gorgeous looking, bright picture. While there are no qualms about the clarity or sound quality, there are moments when the numerous fast-paced flying scenes make it apparent this was made to be seen in 3D and it looks a bit frenetic and oddly framed in 2D. It’s not a huge problem, but you are aware that you’re not quite seeing it as it was conceived to be seen.
There are also some decent special features, especially if you’re a Justin Bieber fan. There’s the young Canadian’s music video for ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’, as well as a ‘making of…’ for that video. It’s okay, but probably only of interest to Bieber-ites. Alongside that there are several other featurettes, including ‘Santa’s Soldiers’, which concentrate on the many Elves and exactly what their jobs are in ensuring a smooth Christmas. ‘The Christmas Family Tree’ looks at the idea that being Santa is a family dynasty, passed down the line from the original Saint Nicholas to the current Father Christmas. We also get Un-Wrapping Arthurs Christmas, about the making of the movie and the ideas behind it. It’s a great selection for a very fun and heart-warming movie.
Overall Verdict: The kids will love this, especially as they get increasingly excited about the festive season, and adults might find they get a lump in their throat by the end too.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac