Arthur Christmas is a joy. It makes me want to sing Jingle Bells and put up the Christmas tree early.
We parents endure a lot taking our children to the movies. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat at a movie screening thinking, if only these 3D glasses had sharper ends on the arms, I could gouge out my eyes and be saved. Most of the time, I manage a power nap and it was only the horrible squeaky singing in the “Alvin and the Chipmunk” films that prevented me from grabbing some blessed shut eye. Warning, there is another Chipmunk outing on the horizon. We saw the trailer and the kids both turned to me and said, ‘Can we see that Mum? Pleeasse.’ I’ll just take earmuffs and a pillow this time, and I should be right.
So, when you see a movie like Arthur Christmas with a good story line and plenty of jokes for the adults to enjoy, you really feel grateful and relieved. It’s beautifully animated and the voiceovers by talents like James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, and Imelda Staunton are wonderful. A check at IMDB reveals that even some of the lesser voice roles are played by leading actors, like Michael Palin and Joan Cusack, to name a few. That shows you the quality of the production, that those folk are happy to be involved in any capacity.
Arthur Christmas is a modern day answer to that question our children ask each year: ‘How does Santa deliver all the presents in one night?’ Well, now we have a new answer. He has got himself a spaceship, plus a gadget that looks a lot like an iPhone, and an entire command centre. Then there are a million or so elves, who moonlight as Hollywood stuntmen when not delivering gifts. Santa has joined the modern age. Arthur, the clumsy but good-hearted son, works in the letter answering area of the operation, whilst Steve, the dynamic G.I. Joe brother runs the entire show. All runs smoothly until something goes terribly wrong and one child’s present remains undelivered. It is Arthur who takes it upon himself to get the child their present before sunrise, accompanied by his Grand Santa using his mothballed sled.
This is a movie for the holidays, for the whole family. I suggest you even take the grandparents. Its fun, it delivers and you won’t be disappointed. Buuuttt—insert screeching halt sound here—there is one warning I would like to give. It is not for every child. Mine are nine and eleven and let me say they are seasoned cinemagoers. In fact, thanks to my passion, you probably won’t meet many kids who have the movie knowledge they possess—they can usually even tell you which movie company releases a film. So, as my husband and I walked out of the movie, commenting how enjoyable we had found it, the nine year old piped up with, ‘I was a little bored half way through.’
‘Why?’ I asked, ‘It was really funny.’ My nine-year-olds’ answer says it all. ‘It was good but where was the magic? Santa doesn’t use a spaceship to deliver the toys. He uses magic.’
Then it struck me, it is a kid’s movie with a lot going on for adults—and thank you, we really appreciate that—but maybe it would have served everyone better if the makers remembered its market is kids. As a parent, I don’t mind sitting through ridiculous movies, if the kids enjoy it. This is their time to experience movies made for their age, just as we did when we were children. I don’t think in my day studios were thinking of adults when they made Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
So, as an adult animation I would give it a 4 star rating but as a kid’s movie, it’s a 3 star. In hindsight, my son couldn’t be more right. It’s a great movie but it is missing just a little magic.