TBT – Arthur Christmas (2011)

animation, Bill Nighy, Christmas, fucking beautiful, fucking funny, fucking sweet, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, TBT

On Tuesday I finally saw Rogue One and I have been obsessed ever since. It’s just put me in such a Star Wars state of mind that I’m getting all impatient for the release of Episode 8 next Christmas. So instead of writing this review I’ve spent the evening watching random videos and reading random articles all about people still trying to guess who Rey’s parents are. I don’t really want to waste too much time on conspiracy theories but, I will say, I think it would be better for the narrative structure of the whole 9 films if she were a Skywalker rather than a Kenobi. I know time wise she could just as easily be Obi Wan’s granddaughter but it would just feel wrong if she was from the bloodline. After all, Star Wars have always been the story of Anakin Skywalker and his children. So it makes sense for the next 3 to be about his grandchildren. Rey is being set up as the main hero of the piece so it would be a weird change to have her come from an unconnected family line. Yes Obi Wan had a huge part to play in Anakin’s story but it was never his story. He merely played a supporting part. Still, if it is revealed that Luke is her father then it would lack a great deal of shock. Nothing compared to the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke’s dad. So, despite what Daisy Ridley and the rest of the internet is saying, nobody is going to know for sure until December 2017 or beyond. Which is why I’m going to get back to the job at hand and review a Christmas film.

I remember quite wanting to see Arthur Christmas when it came out at the cinema because the premise sounded interesting. Santa has accidentally missed a child so it’s up to his clumsy son, Arthur, to deliver the present before Christmas morning. It sounded simple, fun and, ultimately heartwarming. I never got round to seeing it when it was released and, in the years that followed, only managed to see bits of it when it was shown on TV. So I decided, with it’s festive arrival on Netflix, that it was high time I watched the whole damn thing. After all, what could get me more in the mood for Christmas than an animated film about Santa made by Aardman Animations?

Turns out the plot of Arthur Christmas is slightly more complicated than I’d first anticipated. Alongside the story of Arthur trying to save a child’s Christmas, we have to contend with an added storyline of the line of concession and an argument concerning modernisation vs tradition and mythology. Santa (Jim Broadbent) delivers his presents on Christmas Eve thanks to his son, Steve’s, (Hugh Laurie) technological overhaul of the old system. Instead of an old man in a red suit with a sleigh, Santa is helped by a huge team of ninja elves with GPS tracking and gadgets that would make James Bond jealous. The Christmas Eve delivery runs with militaristic efficiency except for the fact that one present is missed.  Both Santa and Steve are willing to let this little indiscretion slide but the youngest member of the Claus clan, Arthur (James McAvoy), won’t stop until the young girl gets her bike. He set off with his grandfather (Bill Nighy) who is desperate to prove that the old way is the best.

It’s not the simplistic affair that I’d originally thought and, whilst not exactly complex, suits a slightly older audience. There’s a lot of stuff about nostalgia and identity that would go above the heads of very young audiences. Still, there is enough goofy and silly stunts for all ages to be amused. Arthur Christmas manages to do what most recent Christmas films haven’t and that’s feel fresh. It takes the tired image of Santa Claus and places him into a modern world. It answers the question “how does Santa make it to every child in one night” without simply relying on “magic”. There is a lot to be exited about in this film and, as you’d expect from Aardman, there are plenty of visual gags alongside the jokes in the script.

It’s just what you want at Christmas: it’s light entertainment who’s ultimate goal is to fill you with festive cheer. It gives us the message that, even in this modern world, we should still just take the time to view Christmas with the same joy and wonderment that we did as a child. It could have ended up being nothing but a forgettable tale but is actually well-crafted and well made. The animation is wonderful, as always, and the narrative has plenty to offer. My only criticism is the lack of any real substance within the main story but the film is packed so full of subplots and gags that it doesn’t really matter. It may seem unfair but you tend to judge Christmas films differently to other films. The main payoff being the amount of Christmas cheer you feel as the credits role. Arthur Christmas was brimming with good tidings and joy that I’d say it was a major success and I wish I’d seen the whole thing sooner.

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