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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arthur Christmas: Yet more traditional Christmas fare

Arthur Christmas is yet more traditional Christmas fare.

It offers us a modestly amusing animated take on how Santa Claus (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is able to deliver so many presents around the Earth, in one night.

It turns out that this Santa is the 20th of a long line, and the 19th (voiced by Bill Nighy) is still alive but retired.

Traditional festive fare: Arthur, voiced by James McAvoy, in Arthur Christmas

The present Santa has a supportive wife (Imelda Staunton again) and grown-up sons, one of whom, Steve (Hugh Laurie) bosses the high-tech, military-style operation, the other of whom, Arthur (James McAvoy), is a well-meaning but clumsy nincompoop who’s banished to the mailroom.

Santa’s other helpers are elves, a million of them, including a Scottish one voiced by Ashley Jensen.

But what happens when the system breaks down, and one little girl in Cornwall doesn’t get the bike she wanted?

Arthur and Grandpa Santa (voiced by Bill Nighy). Writer-director Sarah Smith and her co-writer Peter Baynham come up with a few good gags

The only one who really cares is Arthur, who, though accident-prone, is the most imbued with the Christmas spirit. So Arthur persuades his stroppy old grandfather to get the old, low-tech sleigh out of mothballs and ride to the rescue.

Because Arthur Christmas comes from Aardman, the company that made Wallace And Gromit and Chicken Run, I was hoping for quirkier ideas and a more offbeat sense of humour. Nor does it feel as British as the best of their output.

Still, writer-director Sarah Smith and her co-writer Peter Baynham come up with a few good gags, and the animation is perfectly competent. This is an undemanding children’s movie, with just about enough humour and excitement to keep adults entertained.

It’s just a pity it isn’t a classic.

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