The ‘Future Classic’ Christmas Film

Arthur Christmas (2011)

Sure, anything made by Aardman is going to stand a fair chance of greatness. As soon as you see their logo appear in the opening, it’s as good as having an official stamp of quality.

The one project to have received a lukewarm reception is 2006’s ‘Flushed Away’, which is far from bad but lacked the overall humour and charm of associated with the brand.

A possible irrelevance, but many feel Aardman’s decision to opt for computer animation over stop-motion added to its failure and loss of identity.

Despite any potential worries, Aardman would persist down CGI path once more with Arthur Christmas – a film that has partially slipped under the radar.

I’m not going to plead innocence here; despite knowing of its existence prior, I only discovered this for myself a couple of night ago when it popped up on television; and what a treat it was.

Santa’s workshop has evolved into a military-style operation with the current Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) nearing retirement as his son, Steven (Hugh Laurie), waits in the wings to replace him.

After a Santa returns from a seemingly successful present-drop, they discover one present has been left behind with little time left to deliver it by Christmas morning.

Only Arthur (James McAvoy), Santa’s clumsy other son, seems genuinely concerned and sets out to deliver this last present before it’s too late.

Impressive in scale and scope, this manages to put a fresh spin on the Santa Claus story, showing the job as Santa being just that; a family business with promotion to the main role being handed down father-to-son, generation after generation.

Filled with that smart, witty, British humour we’ve come to expect from any Aardman project, it has however lost that ‘Wallace look’: big round eyes, giant mouths, etc.

But this works in Arthur Christmas’ favour, allowing it to strike out on it’s own and embrace it’s individuality.

Sure, Aardman’s heart, soul and humour remain, but it feels different from any other project released by the studio.

It’s a simple story, but they do so much with it without resorting to padding. Granted, they could just deliver the present and leave us with a 20-minute short, but any and all sub-plots and plot devices work in giving us a fun, engaging experience.

Arthur Christmas plays at a frenetic pace without ever very feeling rushed or confusing; there’s so many little jokes you’ll only pick up in repeated viewings.

It’s true strength lies in the characters as it does something we rarely ever see; there are no villains.

Sure, every character has their bad traits, but it would’ve been so easy to go down the typical route of making certain characters the bad guy.

Even during the set up, you’re waiting for Steven to turn bad; especially when Santa postpones his retirement for at least another year and you see the disappointment on Steven’s face. Once you see that, you’re fully expecting him to go all Scar-on-Mufasa and claim his throne.

It’s a convention we’ve seen so many times that we half-expect it, making all the more impressive when it never happens.

Everyone is on-point as the actors and animators do a wonderful job of bringing such vivid, loveable and interesting characters to life.

There are no clear standouts as everyone shines in a film with a genuine, everyday family who just happen to live in the North Pole and give presents to every child on earth at Christmas.

Packed full of Christmas charm, spirit and genuine sentiment, it avoids the gooey trappings of many of its season peers.

It may have only been around for a decade, but Arthur Christmas is set to embraced as a yuletide classic in the years to come.

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