There’s a reason traditions are called just that. And it’s because in this futuristically focused, obsolescence minded country and the continuous gadgeting up of America, there aren’t many left of them.
One of those stubborn traditions intent on sticking around, and being fueled each year in large part by its Victorian cultural past, is Christmas. And Christmas movies, whether funny or fraught with tragedy, always connect in some measure with that vintage nostalgia.
So is a film like the UK animated feature Arthur Christmas, about converting Santa Claus legend and that global gift giving fantasy into a more efficient hi-tech production industry – even if the story ultimately expresses disdain for such myth makeover – the way to go? Let’s just say it’s a little like a mix ‘n match garden of natural greenery dotted with rubber trees.
Directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, Arthur Christmas addresses the long unrevealed and perhaps best untouched enigma, as to just how Santa (Jim Broadbent) manages to deliver all those presents around the planet on schedule in one mere night. And it seems that Santa’s son Steve (Hugh Laurie) has attended to that matter by creating a massive assembly line industry. Which has effectively drained the magic and mystery from the holiday.
And opposing that cold efficiency is youngest Santa son Arthur (James McAvoy), who insists on old school personalized hand delivery around the planet of gift requests that may have fallen through the corporate cracks. So begins a frantic adventure landing the midnight messenger and his team in at times scary, unfamiliar realms. And where they’re at one point pursued by military forces when mistaken for aliens landing from outer space.
This CG-animated 3D comedic extravaganza, like an overstuffed Christmas stocking, is crowded with narrative hyperactivity that may be too detailed for younger children to follow. Though when the pace does slow up for some quality down time with Santa’s quirky chattering kin around the dinner table, including the voices of Imelda Staunton as Mrs. Santa and Bill Nighy as Grandsanta, the flavorful atmosphere, however wacky, is ripe with an abundance of warmth, wit, humor and heart.