Old Santa (Jim Broadbent) with his sons, Arthur (James McAvoy) and Steve (Hugh Laurie), silently witness the magic of Christmas morning, as their animated faces fill with wonder in “Arthur Christmas”. My eyes welled, as Director and Writer Sarah Smith touchingly and whimsically reminds us that the world works when no one is left out, and they know this. Sony Animation’s “Arthur Christmas” is visually amazing. I did not see it in 3D, and I thought it was great. It is the heartwarming and hysterical screenplay by Smith and Peter Baynham that lives and breathes in “Arthur Christmas”.
So how does Santa Claus deliver all those presents on Christmas Eve, so every child in the world can open their gifts Christmas morning? This generation of Santa is advanced technology and complex mission operations leveraging GPS and NORAD databases. No kidding. Santa commands the helm of S1, a Star Trek Enterprise-like ship that also cloaks as the Christmas night sky. The Elves go all Tom Cruise- Mission Impossible executing Special Forces synchronization delivering the presents in the designated drop zones. Smith directs the animated chaos with excitement and precision. Leading the Mission Operation from Mission Control North Pole—amazing ice citadel of Elves and flat screens is older brother Steve, (Hugh Laurie, brilliantly confident on the verge of pompous). Old-school and misunderstood nerd younger brother Arthur (gentle and passionate James McAvoy), intervenes the operation with handwritten letters to Santa, “I just want everything to be perfect!” All heart Arthur personally writes back all of the 2 billion children, who write letters to Santa. To his soul, Arthur believes that Santa is the greatest man in the world.
After celebrating this Santa’s 70th mission, gift wrapping Elf Master Bryony (great and spirited Ashley Jensen) discovers an undelivered gift—a child was missed! This is the pink bicycle sweet little Gwen requested from Santa. Arthur had assured Gwen (precious Ramona Marquez) that Santa exists and gave his word that she will be remembered on Christmas. From Steve’s perspective that is a 10 sigma error, within the parameters of mission success. Steve brazenly believes he is the heir apparent to Dad. Santa (Broadbent) over the years, is the jovial old man reduced to figurehead, also perhaps lapsing into Alzheimer’s. He is content to spend quality time with Mrs. Santa (sensible Imelda Staunton) following the mission.
Arthur enrolls the help of Grandsanta (crotchety Bill Nighy), because Gwen must wake up Christmas morning with her bike. Be careful what you wish for. Grandsanta goes really Old School, dusting off the Sleigh and the reindeer. And Arthur is reluctantly along for the ride with stowaway Bryony. Every gift must be wrapped. Obviously, all does not proceed as planned particularly without GPS navigation. The animated flight and visuals are seamless and fun. However, Grandsanta’s action is all about making others wrong. Arthur’s spirit is tested, but for him it is always about bringing joy to a little girl on Christmas morning. He is the selfless noble soul, who gets that it doesn’t matter who delivers the gift. It’s about love.
“Arthur Christmas” is touching, funny, and gets it right.