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Arthur Christmas - DVD Review

Arthur Christmas

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

AARDMAN is a name synonymous with two things: quality and hand-made claymation. It comes as something of a surprise, therefore, to find them dipping their toe into more wholly computer-generated territory with Arthur Christmas… but at least the quality remains mostly in check.

For all its faults, Sarah Smith’s yuletide caper is a fun affair, liberally sprinkled with modernist humour yet retaining the need for some traditional elements that fit both the Aardman staple and the Christmas theme.

It also boasts a fine voice cast and some genuinely great sequences that should bring a little seasonal cheer to even the most sceptical heart.

The film sets out to answer the age-old question of how Santa delivers all his presents in one night, revealing the answer to be the work of diligent elves, a mile-wide super-length sleigh that renders itself invisible from below and a slightly befuddled Father Christmas (voiced by Jim Broadbent).

But it also scratches further beneath the surface to reveal a dysfunctional Santa family that also includes the kind-hearted Arthur of the film’s title (voiced by James McAvoy), a curmudgeonly geriatric Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and a rigid, control freak Santa in waiting (Hugh Laurie).

Hence, when Santa forgets to deliver one little girl the bike she has longed for all year, Arthur sets out to get it to her on time with the help of Grandsanta and a far more conventional form of delivery: via reindeer and sleigh.

Their ensuing adventure takes them on a whistle-stop tour around the globe, from Canada to the Serengeti, in a bid to prove that the traditional way of doing things is still the best.

Admittedly, there are moments during Smith’s film that seem to be caught between the two schools of thinking as some of the more modern components (revisionist humour, snappy visual effects) sit uncomfortably alongside the more traditional elements, where the film works best.

It also feels a little generously padded out too, thereby testing the patience of the youngest viewers.

But the charm and heartfelt tendencies of Aardman eventually win out and Smith and company deliver more than enough crowd-pleasing moments to ensure that Arthur Christmas should be a festive hit.

A laugh-out-loud sequence in Africa is particularly inspired, as are several of the scenes involving family bickering or the intrepid elves, while both Nighy and Ashley Jensen, as an over-zealous elf wrapper, stand-out among the vocal cast.

The 3D also looks good, as do most of the visuals in fact, while the tone never becomes too sentimental in the way that the majority of Hollywood’s festive productions do.

Put together, it’s a smart, funny and heartfelt family adventure that looks set to be enjoyed over and over again this time of year.

Certificate: U
Running time: 90mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: November 19, 2012