‘Arthur Christmas’ Review
‘Arthur Christmas’ Review
So far the Specials I’ve looked at have all been ones that persist through public consciousness to varying degrees (for better or worse). Just what are the chances of this relatively recent film gaining the same reputation?
Let’s see, as if what I say means anything on that end.
In contrast to the more timeless Christmas stories I’ve looked at so far, ‘Arthur Christmas’ is deliberately as modern as possible. The mythos this time around features Santa as a family tradition, passed down from father to son every several decades or so.
The current Santa, named Malcolm, is getting a bit loose in the brainpan thanks to old age, to the point that his son’s Steve and Arthur handle more of the hands on work than he does. While Arthur writes personal responses to children’s letters, Steve runs the business of delivering toys like it’s MI6.
Ripping off ‘Prep and Landing’ works pretty well in Steve’s favor, as it seems he managed to only miss one kid on the entire planet. Despite having the resources to get the gift where it belongs with relative ease, neither Steve nor Malcolm can be bothered to care thanks to their own personal issues. This leaves Arthur, a gift-wrapping elf, and Arthur’s grumpy grandfather to deliver the gift.
The pacing here is pretty tight, and the presentation overall is charming.
My only big problem with the plot is the sudden build up of multiple climaxes near the end. Without giving too much away, the third act is made up of three separate plot lines, two of them feel very tacked on and inconsequential. Quite a lot of this last third could be cut entirely without losing anything substantial.
The message, though very heartwarming, could’ve stood to be a touch more subtle.
Anyone who’s seen any Aardman movie should know what brand of humor to expect, and though it’s not exactly laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is definitely an entertains ride.
Arthur is one of those characters that it’s just impossible to hate. James McAvoy’s voice delivery is just so endlessly heartfelt, and the character basically exists as the personification of Christmas Spirit amongst his more self-absorbed family members. Unlike a lot of protagonists like him, Arthur’s goodwill isn’t unshakable, and you really feel for him when the cynicism around him starts to get to him.
The Claus’ are a bit of a mixed bag to me. I get that all of the Santa’s go through their own character arcs, and that they all have to be flawed at the start for that to work out, but I found Steve, Malcolm, and Grandsanta all varying levels of unlikeable for a lot of the running time. I don’t think any of them were bad characters, and by the end I was cool with all of them, but I think there was a bit too much focus put in all of their negative traits for a majority of the film. Though to be fair, the voice acting for all three of them by Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, and Bill Nighy is really good. While watching I couldn’t really pin down any of their voices.
In defense of Grandsanta, his dynamic with Arthur is pretty nice and he gets one really touching scene around the third act.
The other characters like Mrs. Claus and the elf are endearing enough, but don’t leave much of an impression after the fact. Overall the main character is the only one I really find memorable in a good way.
Effects-wise, there’s really nothing wrong objectively. The style is unique, and while it’s not exactly my favorite look for a CGI film, it still certainly looks good. I can see people being put off by the small eyes and gargantuan noses putting people off a bit though.
Music wise, nothing much stands out, though really that just means it’s doing it’s job.
I feel like I may have been a bit too hard on this movie. I do recommend that people see it for themselves to determine what they think, and I certainly don’t think it’s at all bad. I just don’t think it’s that great either, and I don’t really see myself watching it again outside the holidays.