Monday, November 28, 2011

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS - Fitting Yuletide Fare

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (animated adventure in 3D)
Cast: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen
Directors: Sarah Smith and Barry Cook
Screenplay by Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith
Time: 97 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Bryony and Arthur Christmas among the elves

PREAMBLE: If you ever have to explain to a kid how Santa Claus can deliver millions of presents all over the world in the course of one night, just take the child to watch Arthur Christmas. This British animated comedy has not only updated the Santa logistics lore but also injects a heavy dose of high-tech ideas into the whole affair.

Well, the new 'space age' premise is not 100 per cent plausible, but it tickles the intellect and opens up lots of possibilities.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It's Christmas eve and Santa's elves are delivering presents all over the world via a giant spaceship and a new high-tech operation presided over by an ageing Santa (Jim Broadbent). This once-a-year operation is based in the North Pole and run by Santa's oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie).

However, when a present falls off a conveyor belt and gets left behind, Steve and Santa are prepared to write it off as an acceptable margin of error, and it's up to Santa's gawky younger son, Arthur (James McAvoy), to make sure that no child is gift-less on Christmas day. With the help of Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and an elf skilled in present-wrapping (Ashley Jensen as Bryony), Arthur sets off in an old-fashioned sled to finish the job.

Arthur and GrandSanta (voice of Bill Nighy)

HITS & MISSES: Arthur Christmas reminds me of the old Rankin-Bass TV cartoons, especially in the way the Yuletide legends are explored and expanded. What I like best is the way the writers put a new spin on the Santa myths - even to the point of suggesting that the Claus clan is dysfunctional. Yes, the plot and subplots are creatively written, complete with a few twists and generous dollops of British humour. And unlike most Christmas movies, there is even a little subversive humour here - that even Santa is not the ho-ho-ho good guy but a lot more human.

The animation is delightfully done. I watched the film in 3D which enhances the thrills of the 'space ship' and flying sledge sequences considerably. The pace drags a bit in the middle section but picks up towards the end.

THE LOWDOWN: A fitting entertainment for the Yuletide holidays.


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