So, I did the pair of Jack Frost films over the last two days – what a strange double bill that would be. Now it’s time for the Christmas film from one of Britain’s most beloved studios, Aardman Animations. The original Wallace and Gromit shorts were first broadcast at Christmas, so the tradition was there for a long time, and now pretty much every other year there is a new animation for Christmas.
And today it’s…
18th November, Day 19
Arthur Christmas (Sarah Smith & Barry Cook, 2011)
Santa Claus’ youngest son, Arthur (James McAvoy) works at the North Pole, replying to children’s letters to Santa. His older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) coordinates the delivery of presents to every child in the world on Christmas Eve, with the help of a huge flying vessel called the S-1, basically a spaceship in the shape of a sleigh. Christmas has become a highly complex operation with a huge computerised HQ, satellite navigation, and an army of highly trained elves, with the current Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) coming up to his seventieth “mission”, and approaching the time when the Clauses would normally pass on the to their son.
However, at the end of the the mission, Santa decides to carry on doing the job, upsetting Steve. As the clean up is happening though, a wrapping elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) finds an undelivered present. When Steve finds out, he argues that 1 child out of 2 billion is still a successful Christmas, and Santa agrees. But when Arthur finds out though, he just can’t let even one child lose belief in Santa, and sets out to deliver the present to 23 Mimosa Avenue, Trelew, Cornwall, England before sunrise on Christmas morning. The only person who will help him is Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) with his old wooden sleigh and the great-grandchildren of the original reindeer. Can Arthur make it in time to save Christmas?
Arthur Christmas is an absolute delight. The attention to detail in the animation is fantastic, obviously, but the script (from Peter Baynham and director Sarah Smith) is full of the Aardman magic. The concept of Christmas as a world wide operation planned with military precision, with elves acting like elite special forces to ensure the delivery of presents is great. I love the scene of Santa Claus delivering a single present in each country as a purely symbolic matter while his army of elves does the rest of the children. The voices actors are all brilliant, and Imelda Staunton as Margaret Claus almost totally steals the show.
But, beyond being a family adventure film, there’s also an interesting story in here about fathers and sons. Grandsanta resents the way that Christmas is no longer the traditional “mission” it once was, and Steve and Santa don’t really understand Arthur. Steve wants to be the next Santa, but Santa doesn’t want to give up his job for fear that it is what truly identifies him. There are more issues dealt with than in your average Christmas family film.
Overall, I give this
Aardman Animation couldn’t make a bad film if they tried, and Arthur Christmas is another great film. It didn’t make enough money at the box office and this lead to more restrained budgets for their next projects – although I challenge anyone to spot that Pirates In An Adventure With Scientists cost half of what this did – but it’s still a absolute treat.
It’s another family film tomorrow, and I’m going for another trilogy as Tim Allen’s THE SANTA CLAUSE makes its way onto the list.
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
PS Here’s my list so far
31st October, Day 1: The Nightmare Before Christmas
1st November, Day 2: Rocky IV
2nd November, Day 3: Edward Scissorhands
3rd November, Day 4: Trading Places
4th November, Day 5: Batman Returns
5th November, Day 6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
6th November, Day 7: Gremlins
7th November, Day 8: Eyes Wide Shut
8th November, Day 9: Love Actually
9th November, Day 10: Lethal Weapon
10th November, Day 11: Die Hard / Die Hard 2
11th November, Day 12: About A Boy
12th November, Day 13: Trapped In Paradise
13th November, Day 14: Reindeer Games
14th November, Day 15: Joyeux Noel
15th November, Day 16: Nativity / Nativity 2 / Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?
16th November, Day 17: Jack Frost
17th November, Day 18: Jack Frost
18th November, Day 19: Arthur Christmas