Not only fools and reindeer make “Arthur Christmas” work
Making a family Christmas film seems as easy as falling off a yule-log. Take one Santa, add some sugary humour, stir in a heart-warming moral tale and finally sprinkle with an ending where everyone discovers the true spirit of the season.
Arthur Christmas (cert U) has all of these ingredients, yet it also has so much more. Within five minutes, jokes have hit their mark about exponential population growth and the cultural differences each nation indulges in when celebrating Jesus’ birth.
Essentially the film’s premise is set out in a question that we all asked as 5-year-olds: Just how does Santa do it? Is it magic? Is he real? We get slightly older and realise that if a plane going to France takes two hours, then flying across the world Santa’s going to struggle.
It turns out that since the world has gone digital, so has Santa. Gone are the reindeers, the mince pies and oranges are now biofuel. Each detail is lovingly played upon by the writers, even the amount of time an elf has to get in and out of a house is worked out to the hundredth of a second.
Steve (Hugh Laurie) is the master of this, he commands the space age craft which ensures every child gets their gift on time. Arthur (James McAvoy) is not needed, his belief in the magic of Christmas is unimportant, until one child’s gift goes missing and only he, Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and his trusty sleigh Evie will go against protocol and ensure it reaches its destination.
It would be wrong to completely neglect the other performances; Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen are both wonderful as Mrs
Claus and Bryony the Elf, but what makes the film is concept and writing. Sarah Smith and Pete Baynham have written a Christmas masterpiece, with Smith directing.
If one had one criticism of the film it would be that it is a little unevenly paced; its comedic genius is crammed into the first and last 20 minutes. The rest is brilliantly funny. Parts of Arthur’s journey with his grandfather is like watching an episode of ‘Only Fools and Reindeer’. It’s 10 times funnier and more intelligent than the average Christmas blockbuster, however it is not quite as moving as the set pieces that give the film its poignancy.
This film is a must this Christmas: Funny and as intelligent as you want it to be, whilst spinning the cliché of the Christmas spirit into something unique and charming.
Arthur Christmas is released in UK cinemas from November 11.
Watch the trailer here