Sunday, November 27, 2011

Arthur Christmas - Movie Review.

Here's yet another movie where the trailer made this look cheesy, almost to the point where I didn't want to see it.  I was actually kind of swayed by the fact that I thought this was a Pixar film.  It's actually produced by British animation studio Ardman Studios, which has put out movies like Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit.  However, this could have passed for a Pixar movie as far as the quality goes, and I mean that in the best possible sense.

Arthur Christmas is (obviously) about Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent), and his two sons, Steve and Arthur.  In the opening sequence you are shown how Santa and the Elves have moved into the modern age as they deliver their gifts on Christmas Eve.  This sequence is really cool, both in just how well it's animated, but in how the action plays out.  You then see that Santa's oldest son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), is essentially overseeing the delivery from mission control at the North Pole.

Steve is the strong, confident, older son that is next in line to become Santa.  Everyone is expecting Steve to take over for his father after this year's delivery.  Arthur (James McAvoy), as you might have guessed, is the clumsy but sweet, younger son that's kept behind the scenes so he's not in the way.

After the Christmas delivery is over, it is found that one gift did not get delivered.  While Santa and Steve don't think this is that big of a deal, Arthur thinks this must immediately be corrected as to not ruin Christmas.  He sets out on his own, with the help of his Grandsanta (Bill Nighy), who was the previous Santa, to deliver that last gift.  That's pretty much the premise of the story without getting into specifics.

The first thing that struck me was how subtle the humor was.  In the opening sequence alone there are all kind of subtle jokes and visual gags that you may not even notice the first time and many people might not even get.  There's so much going on that it's likely going to take you a few viewings to notice them all.  Fortunately, Arthur Christmas is a movie that you could watch many times.

It was just a few minutes into the movie and I was totally into the film.  I could tell this was not going to be a typical family film.  Arthur Christmas has a little something for everyone.  I heard kids laughing out loud at parts, and then adults laughing out loud at other things.  There was one part at the end where a kid in the audience let out a big gasp, which got a nice chuckle out of the rest of the audience.  Some of the humor is actually kind of adult in the few parts, but it will be over the head of young kids.

It's an all-star, British voice cast.  Normally, when studios, like Dreamworks, boast an all-star cast for an animated film, it seems like it's done just to get people interested in the film. It's not like their voices lend anything special to the story, and I think sometimes actually detract from it.  It's kind of distracting when you watch an animated film and you're trying to figure out who each voice is, or when you hear a voice and go, 'Oh, well, that's just Jack Black.'.  With Arthur Christmas, all of the voices are used well and make the characters feel more like real people.  I was never distracted by trying to figure out who a character was voice by.  I was actually more surprised by the fact that I didn't recognize many of the voices in the movie.

The animation is great!  It's a very colorful film.  I didn't see this in 3D, but I don't think that would be the worst thing.  I don't recall seeing things being thrown at the screen for cheap effect, so I would imagine the 3D would be more immersive.

Arthur Christmas was directed and co-written by Sarah Smith, who doesn't appear to have a lot of work to her name, but give her more projects like this to work on.  It was co-written by Peter Baynham, who surprisingly has written things like Borat, Bruno and Arthur.  That isn't exactly the best track record and not something that you think would be responsible for writing a sweet Christmas film, but that's what he did here.  However, this could be why there was so much subtle, and adult, humor in the film.

This is one of the best Christmas films I've seen in a long time.  It reminded me of older Christmas cartoons I watched as a kid and made my very nostalgic for when I was younger.  In fact, there was one shot of a Christmas tree that immediately made me think of Chirstmas' past back when we used to get huge trees filled with tons of super bright lights.  Things have toned down as I've gotten older.  This film really captures the spirit of Christmas.

Maybe someone's been sneaking soy protein into my food, but this is another movie that nearly had me a little choked up at the end.  I wasn't the only one either.  I heard many sniffles in the audience towards the end.

However, one warning:  Before the movie begins you are treated to an awful Justin Bieber video of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'.  It's so bad, it almost put me in a bad mood as the movie started.  I can't believe they even threw this in there.  I'd rant about this more, but I don't want to go there right now.

What can I say, I LOVED Arthur Christmas!  I think it's a great, sweet, nostalgic Christmas film that the whole family can enjoy.  I can see me watching this movie every year.  I'm going to buy this movie as soon as it comes out on Blu-Ray.  I recommend anyone that wants to see a great, family Christmas film to go check it out.  You can see it full price or matinee and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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