Each year around this period we find an annual Christmas release and this year that’s Sony’s Arthur Christmas from the hand of Aardman who previously gave us Wallace & Gromit as well as Chicken Run.
Arthur is the youngest son of the current Santa and quite the unhandy one compared to his older brother Steve. For 70 years, a member of the Claus family takes on the role of Santa to make sure all children in the world in one night get presents under their Christmas tree and Steve has perfected and industrialised this operation up to the smallest details. This makes that Santa himself has very little left to do and everything is handled with almost military precision. Arthur, however, is such a blunderer that even his slightest move can make everythign go wrong and as such is banned to the letter department where he writes answers to the letters kids write to Santa.
Arthur’s dad has been at it for 70 years and as tradition requires, he’s meant to appoint his successor but after another succesful mission he feels he’s still got it and can continue for another year, something Steve doesn’t take all too well. Arthur, however, finds out that in the last run, one kid was forgotten and in panic he goes to see his dad and Steve to find a solution but the two don’t seem to have all that much interest in him. After all, what is 1 child in the whole world?
This is quite the disappointment for Arthur but luckily there’s grandsanta who wants to help Arthur make sure that no child will be forgotten by Santa…
Aardman has turned around the given of the average Christmas movie a bit. Usually there’s someone who doesn’t get the spirit of Christmas and due to circumstances finally does get to appreciate it. In Arthur Christmas it’s the other way around. Arthur embodies the Christmas spirit but may lose this due to the behavior of his family. Aardman did the smart and original thing and that can be said about more things in the movie as well. The idea of Santa’s sledge being a futuristic space ship, the elves who sneak through houses like commandos, grandsanta who goes all berserk but does help Arthur, … it’s all small things that make the whole fun.
However, Arthur Christmas won’t become a classic. There are quite a lot of jokes, but only a few are really good and the majority gets a bit lost here and there. Also the fact that Christmas HAS to be fun is as always a corset that rips away freedom making the movie feel a bit too gentle and forced. The obligatory happy ending is as you would expect quite predictable and also all but original. All in all Arthur Christmas has become a nice animation movie but we lack some truly great jokes as we do see them in Pixar films or the Ice Age series.
As you would expect from a recent animation movie like this there’s nothing bad to be said about the image quality and compression errors are completely absent. We never got the impression that something was wrong so good work from Sony in the transfer. The sound is good but not great, we missed a bit the immersion and would have liked some more punch.
Qua extras we never have high expectations with Christmas movies but Sony did do their best. There’s a videoclip of Justin Bieber’s “Santa Claus is comin’ to town” including a behind the scenes of this, a 14 minute look at the movie with cast & crew interviews, progression reels in which we see how the CGI characters come to life, a Santa family tree, and some elves recruitment material.