Wednesday, December 14, 2011

arthur christmas is a treat

Animated movies have been so popular over the past few years that Hollywood is churning them out with greater frequency. But a little bit of computer animation goes a long way (at least for me.) So many seem to just be capitalizing on children's love of bright colors and the inevitable fast food kid's meal tie-in (Happy Feet 2). I have been resisting them, preferring to take the kid to live-action family fare. But I'm not a Grinch, so last week we went to see Arthur Christmas, which was actually quite good.

Arthur composes a letter from Santa
Director Sarah Smith has assembled some great vocal talent:

James McAvoy as Arthur, Santa's younger son, who is clumsy and sweet and deemed to be not much good at anything. His job is reading and answering children's letters to Santa. He loves everything about Christmas.

Hugh Laurie as his brother Steve, who hopes to succeed their father, Santa, and soon. Santa's hyper-efficient older son, he has streamlined and updated Santa's Christmas Eve operation, replacing his sleigh with a spaceship, and coordinating thousands of elves delivering presents from his control center at the North Pole.

Arthur and Steve at mission control
Bill Nighy as Grandsanta, who isn't happy about being put out to pasture

Jim Broadbent as an out-of-touch Santa, who leaves everything to Steve

Imelda Staunton as his wise wife, Mrs. Santa

Ashley Jensen as Bryony, a gift-wrapping elf extraordinaire

Bryony can wrap anything, even a bicycle
Michael Palin, Robbie Coltrane, and Joan Cusack all voice elves, too

What was really fun about Arthur Christmas was the quirky characters and Wallace and Gromit style of animation that I've come to know and love (Aardman Animations upcoming The Pirates! Band of Misfits also looks great). The plot is simple, as it should be in a kids' movie. A little girl  has been overlooked in the massive operation helmed by Steve and figure-headed by Santa — the delivering of a Christmas present to every child all over the world on Christmas Eve. Arthur, who reads and answers all the letters to Santa, remembers the little girl's letter and her request for a pink bicycle. He is very upset — even one child should not be missed, and he tries to convince his family to deliver her gift before Christmas Day.

Grandsanta takes Arthur out in Santa's sleigh
Steve and Santa are willing to write it all off as a good percentage of error, but that doesn't work for Arthur. He, Grandsanta, and Bryony set out to deliver the present — in Santa's old sleigh, with real reindeer, who have all been living in the barn since being replaced by Steve's spaceship. A series of amusing misadventures ensue.

Not only do we get that age-old question answered — how can Santa manage to deliver all of those presents in one night — but we are introduced to the multigenerational Santas, a supremely dysfunctional family. That's three very good kids' movies we've seen this holiday season: The Muppets, Hugo, and Arthur Christmas, which is sweet and silly and highly original.
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