Friday, 28 December 2012

Film Review | Arthur Christmas (2011)

With a title based around such a tenuous pun, Arthur Christmas ("Arthur" sounds a bit like "Father", geddit?) was a film I was prepared to watch and then forget, another entry into the middle-of-the-road Christmas cinematic canon. Thankfully, setting my expectations at such an average level meant that Arthur Christmas ended up as something of a pleasant surprise.

The film follows Arthur (James McAvoy), the youngest son of Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) who is well-meaning but clumsy and kept out of the way as much as possible, especially by his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie). When one gift is left behind on Christmas Eve, Arthur and his grandfather Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) to find a way to make sure it's delivered before Christmas morning.

Plot-wise, Arthur Christmas isn't anything particularly special. The main story is entertaining but provides very few twists or developments that will surprise; once Arthur and Grandsanta set their plan in motion to deliver the missed present, it's pretty obvious how things will conclude. The family dispute subplot is somewhat more original, but also reaches the most predictable conclusion that you'll have seen coming from somewhere during the film's first act.

Thankfully, there's quite a lot elsewhere to prop up Arthur Christmas's by-the-numbers plotting. The voice cast is a veritable "who's who" of British talent, with each imbuing his or her character with charm and humour. Whilst the script may not crackle with comedy the same way that Aardman Animation's traditional stop-motion efforts do, the jokes here hit the mark far more often than they miss. The animation itself is also impressive - not quite Pixar standards, but with some beautifully realised scenes throughout, as well as some finely constructed action sequences. All of this lends the "modern versus traditional" message and the inventive way it's put across throughout the film tangible credibility, as well as making the film enjoyable even at points when the script is at its least focused or inspired.

Arthur Christmas ends up as a very entertaining Christmas tale. What it lacks in depth or originality in its story, it more than makes up for in the talent on show through both the casting and the animation. It's a new Christmas film with both genuine heart and humour - something that seems to be true less and less often in recent years.


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