- Running time:
- 100 minutes
- James McAvoy -
- Voice of Arthur
- Hugh Laurie -
- Voice of Steve
- Bill Nighy -
- Voice of Grandsanta
- Jim Broadbent -
- Voice of Santa
- Imelda Staunton -
- Voice of Mrs. Santa
How does Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) pull off the seemingly impossible annual task of delivering gifts to boys and girls all over the world in a single night? He has a lot of help—a battalion of elves, state of the art technology (some of it “hacked directly from the military’s missile program”), and his oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), running the show at North Pole’s mission control. However, it’s Santa’s younger son, Arthur (James McAvoy), who truly understands the Christmas spirit, even if he’s a bit clumsy in his attempts to join in the family business. When Santa and Steve accidentally overlook a child on Christmas Eve, Arthur sets out with his Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and dutiful elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) to right the wrong and prove his worth.
The buzz: The first collaboration between Aardman (the brainy British studio behind “Wallace and Gromit” and “Chicken Run”) and Sony Pictures Animation (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”) is a CG-animated holiday comedy with a clever concept and expertly selected voice cast (also including Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa). British TV veteran Sarah Smith makes her feature directing debut, from a script she co-wrote with Peter Baynham, another Brit TV vet whose credits include, of all things, “Borat.”
The verdict: A witty, well-developed and sweetly sentimental character comedy wrapped in shiny, hyperactive packaging, “Arthur Christmas” deftly blends the sophisticated sensibility of Aardman with the slick spectacle of American animation. Rather than tipping the film too far in either direction, the careful balance succeeds in delivering an appropriately overwhelming sense of scale (Christmas is a massive undertaking even, or especially, for Santa) with the attention to detail that gives this holiday story the necessary heart and soul. Get that right, as Smith and Baynham do here, and you’ve got a seasonal standard for years to come—it’s the first Christmas movie since “Elf” to cleverly and confidently hit the mark. There’s great fun in revealing all of Team Santa’s “secrets” (to keep on schedule, each group of elves must get in and out of a house in 18.14 seconds), but more importantly there’s good reason to invest in these characters and their relationships. Arthur’s journey develops into a loving portrait of a family in transition, with a spirit of generosity that allows everyone to find their place. In a largely underwhelming year of feature animation—heavy with sequels and visual dazzle but low on inspired storytelling—a movie as warm and thoughtful as “Arthur Christmas” feels even more like a gift.
Did you know? Contributing to a vocal cast already stacked with talent, keep an ear out for a number of quick celebrity cameos including Joan Cusack, Andy Serkis, Dominic West, Robbie Coltrane and Michael Palin.
“Arthur Christmas” is also playing in 2D. Find local showtimes here.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
Movie theaters and showtimes for Arthur Christmas 3D in Rochester.
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