Christmas Film Review: Arthur Christmas

A fun, festive classic for all ages

Starring James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and Ashley Jensen

From the opening sequence with elves jetting out of the sky, suspended on wires like spy commandos, delivering gifts by throwing themselves through windows and dog flaps and perfectly filling stockings with guns that automatically detect how Naughty or Nice a child has been, it’s apparent that this is Christmas as we’ve never seen it portrayed before. Indeed, Santa himself (Jim Broadbent) is nothing more than a bumbling, forgetful figurehead, who is more of a hindrance than a help to his highly trained army of elves, while eldest son Steven (Hugh Laurie) organises the logistics of the entire operation. Christmas is more of a business than anything else, and Steven prepares himself to be announced as his father’s successor. Santa himself, however, has no intention on hanging up the red hat, and announces, to everybody’s surprise, that he’s looking forward to many more years in the role, something which Steven takes umbrage at, considering Santa does very little work himself, yet gets all of the glory that comes along with Steven’s organisation.

If this seems a little lacking in Christmas spirit, that would be a fair response. Fortunately, younger son Arthur (James McAvoy) is the most dedicated to Christmas on the entire North Pole, idolising his own father as some sort of deity, and relieved to be part of the operation in any way that he can, even though his only function is to respond to the many letters that come through addressed to Father Christmas himself. Keenly aware of the real impact of Christmas upon individuals, instead of the overall statistics and numbers, it’s little surprise that Arthur is the only one who takes it seriously when a single child is left without a present on Christmas Day. Enlisting senile Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and his trusty sleigh, Arthur sets off to deliver the present himself, as both Steven and Santa don’t view it a good use of resources. With packing elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) along for the ride, the journey to Trelew, Cornwall is far from easy, but Arthur refuses to give up hope until the present gets delivered.

Pacy and playful, Arthur Christmas is a deeply entertaining Christmas film. With many hilarious moments, and brilliant vocal performances, it also has enduring appeal. In particular, elf Bryony provides much of the humour, as she obsesses over the state of the wrapping of the gift, and has some very ingenious uses for wrapping paper. She also prides herself on how many pieces of sellotape required for a job.

The clever jokes throughout help keep up the momentum, and the multiple curveballs thrown in the way of Arthur on his quest keep the tension high without it becoming frustrating or repetitive.

Arthur Christmas is streaming now on Netflix

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