Hello, friends! Now that it’s December, I simply wouldn’t feel right letting the month slip by without discussing a few Christmas films, so I’ve decided to start a series I’m calling the 12 Films of Christmas (because I’m all cute and festive like that). As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’ll be doing 12 reviews of various Christmas films. Most of these are among my favorites, but out of curiosity I threw in a few that I’ve never seen before. Because who doesn’t like a few pleasant surprises for Christmas? The film I chose to kickstart the series happens to be one of those surprises. Just watched it for the first time last night. So here we go! Let’s do this properly: For the first film of Christmas my local library gave to me…Arthur Christmas with Bill Nighy!
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Synopsis: “On Christmas night at the North Pole, Santa’s youngest son looks to use his father’s high-tech operation for an urgent mission.” –www.imdb.com
The Holly Jolly:
- The cast. There are some really wonderful voice actors in this animated film. James McAvoy is simply precious as clumsy, lovable Arthur (his geeky laugh will knock the Scrooge right outta ya). Bill Nighy has the perfect grumpy ol’ voice for Grandsanta. Ashley Jensen is delightful as dedicated, hard-working Scottish elf Bryony. Add in Hugh Laurie as Arthur’s brother Steve, Jim Broadbent as Santa, and Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa, and it makes quite a talented bunch.
- Christmas as a kind of mission or military operation. It might sound intense, but it’s actually really cute. The elves drop down from their giant S-1 aircraft (the modern-day “sleigh”) on ropes, immediately looking like secret agents with their athletic moves and their high-tech gear (ex: they have a device that scans a child and tells their exact percentage of niceness). With efficiency like this, it’s totally possible for Santa to make it around the world in a night.
- Grandsanta’s reindeer pet. The poor old thing acts like a dog and has a cone around its head the whole time. It’s hilarious.
- The beautiful sleigh ride scenes. They’re all very cool, but the initial takeoff goes through the aurora borealis, and it’s soooo pretty.
- Santa’s family is dysfunctional. Santa has become little more than an out-of-the-loop figurehead, oldest son Steve is all efficiency but no heart, and sweet Arthur is an awkward fella with more phobias than he can count. They all have to overcome something in the film to reconnect as a family, making the story much more than Christmas fluff.
The Lumps of Coal:
- Arthur’s story is a story we’ve heard a thousand times. He’s the lovable loser that no one seems to like, and he becomes the adored hero. In films like this, I always think, “Really? He doesn’t have any friends? Not a single one?” Even Arthur’s own family doesn’t seem to care for him at first, and that’s pretty unbelievable. How can no one like him when the audience falls in love within the first 10 minutes?
- Though it’s cute and clever and done in a fun way, isn’t it the tiniest bit troubling that Christmas has become like a military operation for the North Pole not only in this film but in several other recent Christmas films? What happened to plain old magic? Is that not cool enough for kids today?
- Grandsanta’s nostalgic ways are at odds with the high-tech North Pole of the 21st century, and I’d like to see more of that. It’s an interesting theme, yet the film never reveals any significant compromise between the two methods. Does impersonal, highly efficient tech beat out the personal, more time-consuming touch? In the real world, sadly, yes, but in the world of Arthur Christmas it’s hard to tell.
- The ending isn’t completely satisfying. The family dynamic has vastly improved and they’ve all learned important lessons, but aside from a teensy glimpse into the future, you don’t really get to see how the characters have changed.
In a Nutcracker’s Nutshell: Arthur Christmas is cute, clever, and quite a bit of fun. The characters are quirky and likeable, the voice actors are wonderful, the animation is great, and the story is solid and heartwarming. Due to some missed opportunities, the film might not shine as bright as a Christmas star, but it’s still very enjoyable. Great for kids and especially families.
My Glad Tidings: B+
So there it is—straight from the reindeer’s mouth! Oh dear God, I just called myself a reindeer. I’ll try to cool it on the Christmas puns. Anyway, one down, 11 to go! Hopefully I’ll be bringing you at least one or two more Christmas reviews this week. Until then, be merry! (Let’s be honest—those Christmas puns were never really going to let up.) 😉