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Arthur Christmas (2011) film review

Directed by Sarah Smith & Barry Cook

Starring James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie and Ashley Jensen

Produced by the legendary Aardman Animations, along with Sony Pictures Animation, Arthur Christmas has a pedigree right off the starting line. Marry this with an immense cast and a script with so many jokes it’s like a blunderbuss going off in your face every 30 seconds, and you have absolutely no reason not to fall in love with this outstanding British comedy film.

As with other Christmas films, the plot of Arthur Christmas concerns itself with family tensions that arise when you are a member of the Claus clan - this time displaying the egotism which can enter the festive period when you have generations of Santas living under one roof. James McAvoy plays the title character, an altruistic worrier, who is happy out of the limelight which comes with being a Claus, as long as every child gets what they asked for! His brother, Steve (Hugh Laurie), is the COO of the North Pole, executing the delivery of presents with military precision (and also his goatee is in the shape of a Christmas tree) who hopes to becomes the next Santa. Father to Arthur and Steve, and the current Santa, is Malcolm (Jim Broadbent) - reaching the retirement age and sleeping his way through most of Christmas, he surprises all his family by announcing that he will not, afterall, be quitting this year - much to Steve’s annoyance.

After what they think is a successful delivery of presents, the clan are shocked to learn that one child has been missed - and Arthur steps up to ensure that the gift gets delivered, which in turn causes a lot of posturing from his family members, all of whom think they have a better plan.

Christmas film reviews

There is a universal theme running through this animated film about how Christmas represents a quirky balance of tradition and evolution. Personified with the different characters, and revealed with the excellent script, Arthur Christmas captures the often unspoken element about Christmas that is: how it represents an inevitable end of an era whilst we cling to that which we hope to carry forward with us.

As previously mentioned, the laughs in this film come hard and fast, like a hyperactive conveyor belt operated by cocaine-riddled elves. Tiny touches and flourishes are scattered throughout the film like an endless ream of fairy lights, constantly providing guffaws and keeping the film at an utterly enjoyable level - such is the Aardman way. There is also a quaint Britishness to the proceedings, delivering a hearty mash-up of wit, charm and subtlety that demands the attention of an avid viewer with our sensibilities in order to get the majority of the jokes.

McAvoy is on top form as Arthur - delivering a worthy character portrayal who is believable if a bit simpering at times. Bill Nighy, who plays the endearing Grandsanta, is also excellent in this comedy role. Laurie and Broadbent are equally impressive in offering differing personalities on the man in the big red suit. Ashley Jensen also turns up (with a higher pitched voice) as an elf with OCD when it comes to gift wrapping - a wonderful turn.

Ashley Jensen in Arthur Christmas

Fans of animation and comedy will find few films better than this when it comes to choosing a Christmas film to put on. It is unrelenting in its charm and touching in its sentiment, whilst offering an alternative discourse about the meaning of Christmas, and how it relates to our lives.


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