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Movie Review: Arthur Christmas

November 23, 2011

Arthur Christmas – A Sony Pictures’ Release

Release Date: November 23rd, 2011

Rated G for animated action

Running time: 98 minutes

Sarah Smith (dir.)

Peter Baynham (writer)

Sarah Smith (writer)

Harry Gregson-Williams (music)

James McAvoy as Arthur (voice)

Hugh Laurie as Steve (voice)

Bill Nighy as Grandsanta (voice)

Jim Broadbent as Santa (voice)

Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa (voice)

Ashley Jensen as Bryony (voice)

Marc Wootton as Peter (voice)

Laura Linney as North Pole Computer (voice)

Eva Longoria as Chief De Silva (voice)

Ramona Marquez as Gwen (voice)

©Sony Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) holds a stack of letters in Aardman’s Arthur Christmas.

Our reviews below:


Arthur Christmas Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

This year, December 25th has come early courtesy of the purely brilliant Arthur Christmas.  Made with love and care by the excellent animators at Aardman under the guidance of first-time director Sarah Smith, this is a joyously funny film filled with the spirit of the season, and one that is destined to become a holiday classic.

The lanky Arthur Christmas (voice of James McAvoy) is the son of the current Santa (Jim Broadbent) and little brother of the next in line, Steve (Hugh Laurie).  In charge of responding to some of the thousands of letters that are sent to the North Pole each year, Arthur is a genuinely caring young man who always tries to see the best in other people.  But after a long night of his dad delivering presents, he finds a gift remaining amongst the wrapping paper.  A child has been missed.

Determined to keep the spirit of Christmas alive, Arthur sets out with Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) in their old wooden sleigh to deliver the present to little Gwen (Ramona Marquez) in England.  Their journey doesn’t entirely go according to plan, with the reindeer taking them all over the world and a stowaway elf named Bryony (Ashley Jenson) who is in charge of the wrapping division.  There are some wonderfully humorous turns in the story, but at its heart is a main character who truly believes and is genuinely trying to make things right.

The voice acting by the all-star British cast is excellent, and the characters are all appealing in their own unique ways.  The animation is a wonder to behold.  The scenes with the elves sliding in and out of houses are brilliantly edited, and the sweeping set design of headquarters at the North Pole is so intricately detailed that it deserves to be seen on the big screen.  Although some have criticized Aardman for not always sticking to their claymation roots, some of the best stuff in Arthur Christmas could have only existed inside a computer.  This is a clear frontrunner for Best Animated Film come Oscar time.

The 3D adds a nice sense of depth, although the beautiful visuals would hold up just as well in 2D.  After the fastpaced and often exhilarating 98-minute running time, it’s hard not to have a big smile on your face as you leave the theatre.  Arthur Christmas is a wonderfully funny film, filled with a lot of heart and the true spirit of the season.


Arthur Christmas Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

Ever wonder how Santa gets to all of those houses in one night?  It is a question Arthur (James McAvoy), Santa’s youngest son, encounters while answering a child’s letter in the mail room where he works.  Now many stories have addressed this, but Arthur Christmas shows us a world of an army of elves and precise planning down to the micro second, all run by Santa’s (Jim Broadbent) eldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie) in mission control.  Santa delivers the toys out of the S1 – another of Steve’s creations – a giant stealth ship undetectable to RADAR and capable of traveling way faster than the old 50,000 km/h the reindeer could do.

But just when they think everything went according to plan, a bicycle is found lost on the floor of the control room and they realize the unthinkable has happened – a child has been missed!  Steve convinces Santa that one child, delivery number 577858XK doesn’t negate all of the deliveries that went right, and there is no time to go back for one kid.  It is the way this efficient North Pole station must be run.  But Arthur thinks differently.  With the help of Grandsanta (Santa’s father and the previous Santa, played by Bill Nighy), and an eager gift-wrapping elf named Bryony (Ashley Jensen), they sneak out and decide to go deliver the present – to a little girl named Gwen (Ramona Marquez) – themselves.  And they’ll be going the old fashioned way… with reindeer and sleigh.

What ensues is a great story with charm, heart, a sharp script, and appealing characters.  Everyone here has their own reasons for doing what they want, each with their own agendas, but Arthur is an appealing, relatable, and welcome hero as his only motivation is to make sure little Gwen gets her present.  Because no child can be missed on Christmas.  It is this purely outside motivation that takes him out of his comfort zone to accomplish this goal, (one only Bryony seems to completely understand at first), and fills the whole film with Christmas spirit.

Arthur Christmas is technically stunning as well.  The animation is great to look at, and the 3D works well, especially in the flight scenes.  Still, a film this good will hold up in 2D as well.  The score by Harry Gregson-Williams fits well, and the voice cast are all perfect, bringing life (along with the work of the animators) to the characters.  I laughed throughout, and loved every second of this one – and those around me seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.  One scene that got an extra good reception in the audience I saw it with was when Arthur and Grandsanta fly through (and crash into a few things) in Toronto.  I think any audience with a city featured in this film is going to love it even more.  There is also a lot of humour here, although unlike many American films, it is more situational than slapstick, and relying on the script and delivery of the lines – a welcome relief.  A new Christmas classic, there is nothing not to like here.

In fact, this is not only possibly the best animated film of the year, it is one of the most enjoyable of the year as well.  I was grinning when this film ended and still had a smile on my face by the time I got home 45 minutes later.  Arthur Christmas is nothing short of brilliant.  Guaranteed, you’ll leave the theatre happy.


Arthur Christmas Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

How does Santa Claus deliver all the Christmas presents in just one night?  This question and many more are answered in the extremely inventive Arthur Christmas.  A little English girl named Gwen writes a letter to Santa requesting a pink bicycle.  Santa’s son Arthur (James McAvoy), is on mail duty and moved by her letter.  But Santa (Jim Broadbent) misses Gwen’s house while delivering presents on his older son Steve’s (Hugh Laurie) futuristic aircraft.  So Arthur, Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and wrapping paper elf Bryony (Ashley Jenson) decide to deliver Gwen’s present the old fashioned way, with reindeer, a sleigh and Christmas magic.  However, they get lost on more than one occasion.

One hilarious scene that got laughs from the audience is when the sleigh gets lost in Toronto.  Seeing them bump into the CN Tower is really cool if you are a Torontonian.  Arthur Christmas is one of the best animated films this year.  The set design is incredibly detailed and spectacular to watch.  The characters look appealing, matching each one’s personality perfectly.  The dialogue between them is witty, sharp and often charming.  There is also an incredible amount of heart in this movie.  It captures the true spirit of Christmas in a world that far too often forgets to slow down and remember to share with other human beings.

The character of Arthur Christmas is especially likable.  He’s a kind and caring person who is lovably nerdy and well meaning person who sees the best in other people.  Arthur Christmas could easily win the Best Animated Film category at the Oscars.  It is a wonderful Christmas movie that will make you believe in Santa all over again.  Bring the entire family to this one.  Young fans will also enjoy a charming rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” performed by Canada’s own Justin Bieber.  This nice music video plays just before the film.


Arthur Christmas Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Do you remember sending letters to Santa?  Remember how important it felt to get your wish list to the North Pole well before the big day?  Arthur Christmas (voiced by James McAvoy) remembers.  Whether the letters get there by email or snail mail, or whether the gifts get delivered by an old fashioned sleigh pulled by eight reindeer or by a superfast stealth aircraft, it’s Christmas spirit and magic that make it all happen.  Arthur Christmas has plenty of both.

Arthur Christmas takes place in present day North Pole.  The whole gift-giving operation is run with military precision staffed by very efficient and well-trained elves.  The mission control centre is equipped with the most up-to-date technology and is really impressive.  The operation is handled by Santa’s (Jim Broadbent) oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie) who aspires to be the next Santa.  Helping out in the mailroom is Santa’s younger son, Arthur.  In his colourful Christmas sweater and fancy reindeer slippers, Arthur is full of enthusiasm but not always of much help.  Father Christmas is contemplating retiring after one more Christmas.  Which son will follow in his footsteps?

The true meaning of Christmas spirit comes alive when a toy delivery is missed to a little girl named Gwen (Ramona Marquez) in Trelew, England.  Arthur wanting to make things right enlists retired Grandsanta (Bll Nighy), and his old trusty sleigh Eve and eight reindeer.  The pair, along with stowaway packaging elf Bryony (Ashley Jenson), head out on a wild sleigh ride that takes them around the world including a hilarious fly through Toronto, Canada.  Their misadventure also takes them through Serengeti Park in Northern Africa.  Watch for the really funny scenes with Arthur soothing growling lions and floating animals sprinkled with magic dust.

The real magic of Arthur Christmas lies in the wonderful animation by Aardman studios.  From the elaborate North pole world to the amazing flying sequences, this film is a delight from start to finish.  Equally delightful are the quirky and endearing characters that make up the heart of this movie.  Watching the Claus family – Santa, Mrs. Claus (Imelda Staunton), Steve, Arthur and Grandsanta work out their family differences to bring Christmas to little Gwen is heartwarming.  With magical animation, appealing characters, really funny dialogue and tons of Christmas spirit, Arthur Christmas is going on my annual must-watch Christmas list.

Play Santa and give your little elves a gift.  Bring them to see Arthur Christmas.  The 3D is fine, but the story will warm your heart just as much in 2D.  Justin Bieber fans will be delighted with his rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” playing before the movie and through the end credits.  Merry Christmas!


Arthur Christmas Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

Arthur Christmas (James McAvoy) is the sweet and awkward younger son of the current Santa (Jim Broadbent), now close to passing his role in the Santa dynasty on to his elder son Steve (Hugh Laurie). Their family also includes the always supportive Mrs. Santa (Imelda Staunton) and the feisty Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) who retired in 1941. Steve has turned the North Pole operation into a high-tech courier service. On Christmas Eve the huge sleigh-shaped mothership hovers over each community where teams of elves jump out to make their deliveries. When one present goes missing, Arthur and Grandsanta decide to take the old sleigh and reindeer out for one last delivery.

Co-produced by Aardman and Sony, Arthur Christmas is simply brilliant in every way. It has a perfect balance between sweetness, humour and action, with a real time sense of suspense as the night goes on, all delivered by the best collection of British talent since Harry Potter. Though superficially its logistics solutions recall the Disney TV special Prep & Landing now out on DVD, it works just as well here in its own way with not a second going wrong over the hour and a half running time. I saw it in 3D which was nicely done, but in 2D it will be just about as good. As a bonus, there is a nice Justin Bieber clip preceding the film with the same tune repeated over the closing credits.


Consensus: With brilliant animation from Aardman and a story that is as wonderfully humorous as it is heartfelt, Arthur Christmas is filled with the true spirit of the season and is destined to become a holiday classic.  **** (Out of 4)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Brittany Davis permalink
    November 23, 2011 8:38 pm

    Haven’t seen this movie yet, but it almost looks as good as this year’s “Rio!


  2. Brittany davis permalink
    November 25, 2011 4:12 pm

    Just saw this movie today and it is seriously one of best movies of the year. It’s even up there with this year’s “Rio”. I think that both of these animated films should seriously win an Oscar.


    • November 25, 2011 9:20 pm

      So glad that you enjoyed Arthur Christmas! We agree – it’s right up there with Rio as one of the best animated movies of the year.

      As always, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      -John C.


  3. Brittany Davis permalink
    November 27, 2011 8:16 pm

    You know what, I take all that back. Arthur Christmas is much better than this year’s “Rio”. Even though this year’s “Rio” has a nice soundtrack, some good, if not spectaacular animation and voice acting, the characters are dull and the story has been used a lot of times before. It has been used in Dreamworks’ Animations “Madagascar”, Disney’s “The Wild” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”, Sony Pictures Animation’s “Open Season, and Disney’s “Bolt”. It also lacks the emotional depth of Pixar’s films. In my opinion, you don’t at all what happens to the characters in “Rio”. That’s why I think “Arthur Christmas” is a much better movie, because the characters are funny and appealing, the animation is groundbreaking, and it has a strong emotional depth like Pixar’s films. “Arthur Christmas” sholud seriously win an Oscar for Best Animated Film. I’m not saying “Rio’s” a bad movie, it’s just mediocre.


    • November 27, 2011 9:41 pm

      Wow. Talk about a change of opinion. I do agree that Arthur Christmas would deserve to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film, but we still think Rio is also a great animated movie…

      -John C.


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