Christmas Can Be Cool – Arthur Christmas

22 Dec


Arthur Christmas, produced by the inestimable Aardman Studios (home of Wallace & Gromit), slipped through the cracks for many last year, despite (or perhaps because of) being paired with Justin Bieber’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” Christmas single. This is a real shame, since it’s probably the best family Christmas film of the past decade. An exceedingly clever script written by Peter Baynham and director Sarah Smith goes a long way towards answering the many mysterious Santa-related questions, both age-old (How does he get down chimneys?) and new (Why can’t we see his house on Google Earth?). It turns out the role of Santa Claus is handed down through generations, and although his current operation is remarkably efficient, Santa himself (Jim Broadbent) has become a mere figurehead while his tech-head elder son Steve (Hugh Laurie) pulls the strings. Baynham and Smith understand that cleverness itself means little without heart, and after the film is done world-building, it shifts its focus to its titular character (voiced by James McAvoy), the Claus son who won’t eventually become Santa Claus. Arthur may not understand the ins and outs of the family business, but he does understand Christmas itself, and the bulk of the film follows him on his race against time to get a cherished present to a girl named Gwen (the one child in the world who didn’t receive her gift) before the sun comes up. The film has fun with detail and flashiness, but its real success shows through its characters and their relationships as they argue over efficiency and progress, all while Arthur stays focused on little Gwen and her Christmas-morning happiness.


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