I may be one of the least festive people I know and, as such, there are very few Christmas movies that can entice me into a cinema – I find elves particularly wearisome, except if they’re Will Farrell. Nevertheless, with the rain torrential and the traffic thunderous, I thought I’d escape the Holiday Mayhem and take a peek at Arthur Christmas. I am so glad that I did. Even the loud cry from the row behind me (‘Mummy, I have to wee!’) did nothing to dampen my increasing enjoyable immersion in a true Festive Gem.
As one would expect from a story about Santa, Arthur Christmas is set at the North Pole, or under it, with the Christmas Eve present-despatch operation finely honed by Santa’s oldest son, Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), his S1 spaceship and his elf commandos. Santa himself (Jim Broadbent) is now little more than a rather rotund figurehead who delivers a present or two with a lot of help. However, despite the latest in Christmas technology, a mishap occurs and a young girl, Gwen in Cornwall, is missed. In order to prove that Gwen is not the only child in the world that Santa hates, Santa’s other son, Arthur (James McAvoy), the son whose only experience of technology lies in his choice of flashing reindeer slippers, has no option but to deliver the present himself. Only then can he demonstrate that Santa is the kindest man in the world.
The problem is he has to take crotchety Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) along, a moth-eared Rudolph, a sleigh that goes at a mere 50,000 miles per hour or so, some unreliable reindeer, a sprinkle of Magic Dust, an irritating present-wrapping elf (Ashley Jensen) and phone GPS.
It’s in these characters that you’ll find the love, humour and warmth that make up Arthur Christmas (except perhaps with Grandsanta whom you may want to clobber). There are no baddies – except perhaps a bunch of lions – just a group of Santas who all want to be the man in red. The comedy is non-offensive and very funny indeed – the kids will marvel at the animations but the mums and dads will bellow at the jokes. The imagination that goes into the super technology as well as the lesser technology (for instance disguising a sleigh as a 1950s’ spaceship) is wonderful to behold and the funny sweetness of Arthur is endearing. I did want to hit the elf, mind you. There are humorous little touches throughout and, for sure, Arthur Christmas will stand up well to a second viewing. There is a Britishness about the film too, from its mince pies to Margaret Santa (Imelda Staunton), who reminded me of Meryl Streep in a certain preceding trailer. Then there are the elves in kilts.
Incidentally, I saw Arthur Christmas in 2D and it needed no extra dimension.
Arthur Christmas is so much better than the title suggests. It is far funnier than Arthur’s slippers. It is as warm and cosy as one of Arthur’s horrible jumpers. It is as light and sparkly as the Magic Dust that makes reindeer fly. Do try and catch it while you can.