From Aardman Animations, the makers of Wallace & Gromit, comes this family-oriented Christmas film about the importance of the festive season.

In the world of Arthur Christmas Santa does exist, but he’s merely a figurehead for a hi-tech and well-oiled operation that seamlessly delivers presents all over the globe with ruthless efficiency. Santa’s elder son, Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), runs the annual mission from his North Pole base, which contains better technology than the Pentagon. Rather than the traditional reindeer-led sleigh, Santa flies around in the S-1, a Thunderbirds-esque super-plane.

Santa’s other son, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), is the antithesis of his older brother; he’s clumsy and blissfuly ignorant of just about everything around him. As a result he’s been consigned to the letters department, though he goes about that task with a vigorous enthusiasm.

On the particular Christmas we are privy to, the current Santa’s 70th, a devastating mistake occurs. A little girl is missed, the only one on the entire planet not to receive her present. Steve shrugs it off as a minuscule anomaly, but Arthur takes it to heart and sets off on a mission to deliver the present, with Grandpa Santa (voiced by Bill Nighy) in tow.

Arthur Christmas may be a kids film, but it’s one that adults can enjoy too, particularly those in the festive spirit. It doesn’t have the depth of a Pixar movie, and that shows throughout — occasionally you feel as if you were watching any generic Christmas movie ever made. However, it has its moments, and never feels like a bloated cash cow in existence purely to mercilessly take the pocket money off children.

Aesthetically, it’s pleasing. The visuals are very nicely put together; it’s a little colder than claymation, but the consistent style makes it easy on the eye. The characters are animated fantastically, and even better is the voicework, with a cast including the aforementioned as well as Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton acting out the decent dialogue to perfection. Occasionally the locations feel a little stagey, as if you were watching a 3D animation walkthrough, but you can’t blame the production team for taking pride in their work.

Arthur Christmas will be enjoyed by children everywhere, and most adults will find it pleasantly watchable. It’s all very on the surface, and in that sense it is completely overshadowed by the works of Pixar and Ghibli. However, while it may not have the legs to be a Christmas classic, it hits the money when tapping into the festival feel. Expect it to resurface every other December or so, though some may want to purchase the DVD when it arrives — placing your kids in front of it may make for a welcome distraction when the manic excitement of the holidays is in full flow.

Tom Grater

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