Review: Arthur Christmas

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

PLOT: When Santa (Jim Broadbent) misses a young girl’s house on Christmas Eve, his clumsy son Arthur (James McAvoy) and Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) hijack a de-commissioned sleigh and some old reindeer in a hope to deliver her gift before she wakes up.

REVIEW: ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is the latest film from Aardman Animation, whose last few films, FLUSHED AWAY and THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, received a mixed reception in North America, but were blockbusters overseas, especially in their native Britain. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is their first outing with Sony, and the result is a slightly above-average Christmas tale that’s probably more for the kiddies than their previous, slightly older-skewing films.

Funny enough, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS has a story that’s more than a little reminiscent of the Vince Vaughn holiday abomination, FRED CLAUS. Our hero, Arthur, is every bit the misfit Fred was, although- appropriate to a G-rated animated film, he’s a much sweeter guy. In the lead, James McAvoy strikes the right notes as the sweet, clumsy Arthur, although the film might have been funnier if the role was given to a British comedian like Matt Lucas, Chris O’Dowd, or Simon Pegg (come to think of it, Nick Frost would have been a brilliant choice). Arthur is Santa’s youngest son, whose clumsy nature leads to his being banished to the mail room where he answers Santa’s letters. Meanwhile, his older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie- sporting his natural, English accent) runs Santa’s yearly outing with the precision of a military commander- and seems to be a shoo-in for Santa’s job.

However, in the midst of turning their holiday adventure into a minutely detailed operation, the spirit of X-Mas has been lost, and Arthur is horrified when his father and brother shrug-off the delivery they missed. Luckily, Santa’s predecessor, Grandsanta, is a little ornery this holiday season, and decides to show his son a thing or two by having his own unsanctioned adventure.

From there, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS becomes a beat-the-clock adventure, and while it’s certainly nothing particularly exciting, there are a few elements that distinguish it from other, more tepid holiday fare. Well- one thing actually: Bill Nighy.

Voicing Grandsanta, Nighy is friggin’ hilarious. Every second he’s on-screen, ARTHUR CHRISTMAS works, and he’s got some pretty damn funny lines about delivering presents during the blitz in WW2 (with three reindeer having been shot-down by the Nazis), and accidentally starting the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Heck, they could have called this film GRANDSANTA, and I would have been thrilled.

Alas, it’s called ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, so Grandsanta ends up taking a backseat in the final stretch, and the film becomes a little maudlin. That said, the kids I saw this with didn’t seem to mind, and I’m sure this will become a much-played holiday favourite for many households.

Review: Arthur Christmas




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.