Call me a bah-humbug but I approach Christmas movies with great trepidation – they’re usually schmaltzy and overly sentimental and really, what can ever live up to that ultimate Christmas movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, for festive laughs? Well, I was forced to eat my words (with mince pies on the side) after taking the kids to see the very funny and thoroughly enjoyable Arthur Christmas.
Created by Aardman for Sony Pictures Animation, Arthur Christmas tells the story of what goes on behind-the-scenes on Christmas Eve. We meet Father Christmas and his two sons, muscle-bound technocrat Steve (Hugh Laurie) and gentle, scatterbrained Christmas-devotee Arthur (James McAvoy). Despite Steve’s highly technical computerized delivery system, there’s a Christmas Eve catastrophe when one child is ‘missed’. Arthur takes it upon himself to deliver the gift. It’s a classic head versus heart story line that works so well in a festive setting.
I was an Arthur Christmas fan from the opening scenes – we watch Christmas Eve deliveries happen in a Mission-Impossible-style operation with elves abseiling into homes and delivery, location and gift stats rolling across the screen. A moment of panic ensues when an elf radios to headquarters “We’ve got a waker!”, after which Steve has to carefully talk Santa through the delivery so that he remains unseen – a very modern Santa!
There is a terrific cast of characters including the cantankerous patriarch Grand Santa, who, like Arthur, is somewhat of a softie when it comes to Christmas. There’s also a plucky little elf, Bryony, who is full of clever ideas and knows her way around wrapping a gift.
The scenes from the wrapping production line and the control-room floor are spectacular but it’s really the clever dialogue that will satisfy parents and kids alike. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I tweeted a few favourite quotes (I know, me, the Christmas movie sceptic!). Grand Santa scores some of the best lines with “In my day kids were happy with a pat on the back and a walnut!” and “There was one Christmas… 1854 I think.. .when every child got a sausage nailed to a bit of bark…”.
Note that Arthur Christmas is being shown as an ordinary movie and also in 3D. Bearing in mind that I was in Bah-Humbug mode when my four children begged to see it, I opted for the ordinary movie – “You don’t need 3D effects for a Christmas movie!” I said. I suspect I was wrong. There were so many parts of this film that would have been awesome in 3D (sleigh rides, present delivery and so on) – so I recommend you pack the candy canes and go the whole hog with this one, 3D and all.
I’ll finish with some sweet words that are worth keeping in mind over the busy Christmas period from Bryony, head of wrapping, Pacific Division – “There’s always time for a bow.”