Old 11-23-2011, 08:16 PM
Sarah Smith's Arthur Christmas

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Arthur Christmas (2011)

“Arthur Christmas” is a family film with its heart in the right place. It seeks to please children with its light story, colorful animation, and some amusing humor. For the adults in the crowd, however, this may not be quite enough to equate the film as an altogether enjoyable experience. There’s such a thing as having too light of a story, and indeed, halfway into the screening, it appeared that both kids and adults were becoming a little restless as this good-intentioned film continued on.

It tells the story of how Santa (Voice of Jim Broadbent) is able to deliver presents to everyone in the world in one night with the help of his elite elf squadron, lots of technology (including a gigantic spaceship), and one of his sons, Steve (Voice of Hugh Laurie), commander of mission control. His other son, Arthur (Voice of James McAvoy), works in the letter department, answering countless letters from children requesting presents and posing questions about the existence of Santa.

After a seemingly successful Christmas, it is discovered that one child has not had their gift delivered. Santa and Steve don’t seem too bothered by this, but Arthur becomes extremely worried that this one child will wake up and find nothing under the tree for her. In order to deliver the gift, Arthur gets some help from Grandsanta (Voice of Bill Nighy), who decides to use the old fashion sleigh in order to show that advanced technology is not needed to deliver presents. Together they set off for England to spread Christmas cheer to the one child whose gift slipped through the cracks.

There are some things to admire about “Arthur Christmas” including its animation. It’s not the lifelike animation you’ll find in Pixar films or the upcoming “The Adventures of Tintin,” but it is colorful and enjoyable to watch. Sadly, the film was presented in 3-D, so the colors were drowned out quite a bit, but lifting up my glasses, I was able to see that it was indeed supposed to be a bright film, so as per usual, make sure to catch it in 2-D if you plan on checking it out, especially since the 3-D stops being noticeable almost immediately.

The voice cast here is pretty good and includes some big names like Hugh Laurie, well-known at this point for his fantastic work on “House,” Jim Broadbent, a great character actor who has appeared in such films as “Moulin Rouge!” and “Gangs of New York,” and James McAvoy, most recently seen in the excellent “X-Men: First Class.” The whole cast does a great job with their characters’ personalities which really helps bring them to life.

Despite these two things that are really going for the film, they can’t overcome the weaknesses in its story. It’s true that it’s simple and predictable, but these are forgivable as it’s a childrens’ film. However, the story never really becomes engaging to a point where you actually care about what’s going to happen. In fact, it’s actually a bit bland, even for a film that is trying to appeal to kids.

It ends up feeling like it’s overly-stretched, even at 90 minutes. The story seemed like it would be more fitting for a short TV Christmas special rather than a feature film, but due to an increased length, we get several parts that feel like the film is dragging along as it struggles to fill the 90-minute runtime. The film’s heart was indeed in the right place, just not in the right format.

There are moments of charm and it is a sweet story which kids might find entertaining enough, but chances are they will become just as restless as my crowd as the film stretches on. As far as kids’ films go, it’s not a bad choice, but ultimately, there are other movie choices out there, “Hugo” in particular, that would be a better use of time for your entertainment dollars. 2.5/4 stars.
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