14 November 2011
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS- Review
Putting yet another spin on the question of how Santa Claus gets presents to all the houses around the world in just one night, we see the North Pole as the hub for a militarised gift-delivering operation on Christmas Eve. Santa has two sons who oversee the operation- heir apparent Steve, the lieutenant who runs Christmas from ground control, and Arthur, whose boundless enthusiasm for the festive season sees him relegated to answering chidren's letters. However, the high-tech operation suffers an infinitesimal margin of error when one child in Cornwall doesn't receive a present, and Arthur is determined to make things right.
The most impressive thing about Arthur Christmas is the way in which it gets going right away, with a dazzling opening sequence that sees Santa at work all over the world. In a massive camouflaged spaceship, elf commandos are deployed across cities, to deliver presents to sleeping children. Like the recent Tintin, all necessary exposition comes organically, but this one also proves that you don't need to make a huge pioneering advance in animation to pull off a well-designed action sequence, reminiscent of the elaborate inventions that Wallace and Gromit produce.
The film also measures its Santa dynasty as an analogy of the royal family, whereby the only real antagonist is Steve, voiced by Hugh Laurie, who is practically ready to take on the big red suit, but not yet emotionally responsible. Arthur, as our protagonist, is more naive and bedazzled about Christmas, and yet too clumsy to do anything useful himself. Elsewhere, the current Santa, Malcolm, is voiced by Jim Broadbent, which automatically aligns itself with a more dopey and affable personality. And Grandsanta, clearly modelled on Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses and raucously voiced by Bill Nighy, is a retired Father Christmas- think of him as the film's Prince Phillip.
Aardman have covered Christmas before, with the Robbie the Reindeer TV specials, but while Arthur Christmas is more British, it's also got more of a timeless sense of humour. It's not only the cast and the production values that have been improved from those shorts, but also the script by Sarah Smith and Peter Baynham. It's not a better film than The Curse of the Wererabbit, nor is it a funnier film, but then I don't believe in looking at all of Aardman's work from the high watermark of Wallace & Gromit and marking down from there. And this studio certainly makes a better Christmas movie than many have.
Arthur Christmas is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Arthur Christmas, why not share your comments below? Also welcome- remembrances of those Robbie the Reindeer specials. Discounting the letdown of the third instalment, the first two are cracking Christmas specials.
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.