Arthur Christmas

For holiday family fare, Sarah Smith's Arthur Christmas has some pretty sharp edges, which made it all the more delightful for me but, as with The Muppets and Hugo, will probably bore most youngsters. This animated film is the story of the Claus dynasty of Santas whose gift-delivery operation has evolved into something that is 100 times as intricate as the Pentagon. The film opens with S-1 (Santa 1), an enormous aircraft that resembles the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek and is captained by Santa (Jim Broadbent) on its yearly mission to deliver toys to all 600 million children before sunrise on Christmas. Santa's older son, Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), the heir apparent, is in charge of ground-based operations, which includes hundreds upon hundreds of elves in a central command auditorium lifted straight from NASA. Steve's younger brother, Arthur (James McAvoy), is in charge of answering letters. When one particularly deserving girl's gift goes undelivered because of a SNAFU, Arthur and grandfather Claus (Bill Nighy) mount up an old sleigh and eight reindeer to make the special delivery -- but, of course, not without calamity. It is actually the faith and idealism of Arthur and the legion of elves who do the Clauses' bidding that keep Christmas and this movie afloat.

I haven't been able to figure out what movie-makers are doing with children's films. These movies are spectacular to watch (even in 2D) but they have too many moving parts, the characters speak too rapidly and the jokes and sight gags are loaded with cultural references from the Mad magazine school of humor that don't make the kiddies laugh. The screenings of Arthur Christmas, Hugo and The Muppets I went to were all attended by moppets 10 and under and I heard not a peep from any of them. I don't know if kids have changed but the pictures certainly have.


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