Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MOVIE REVIEW: Arthur Christmas

Guest blogger Liz Parker is back from an advance screening of the new animated film "Arthur Christmas". Will this be the beginning of a new tradition in holiday movies? Let's read what Liz thinks...

There were two previous screenings of Arthur Christmas before this one, and it had been getting mixed reviews from its attendees. However, it had about 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, so I decided to "take a chance" and see it. I am very glad I did, as it ended up being one of the zaniest movies I have seen recently, and was hilarious throughout. It also has some major actors voicing its various characters, which I didn't find out until later, as their voices are not easily recognizable during the film.

Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) is one of Santa's two sons, and his job at the North Pole is to answer letters that children send to Santa. Santa's other son, Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie), is in charge of operations, and especially Operation Christmas, in which more than a billion presents are delivered to kids around the globe on Christmas Eve. Santa has been at his job for the past 70 years, and Steve fully expects him to retire this year, leaving him the "reins," so to speak, as the new Santa. Operation Christmas goes off without a hitch, as usual, until Arthur finds out that a little girl in England did not get her present delivered. Desperate to get her gift to her, Arthur teams up with his grandfather, Grandsanta (voiced by Bill Nighy), and they set off in Grandsanta's old sled to deliver her present the "old school" way, reindeer and all.

I had no idea Christmas was this complicated of an operation. There are about a million elves that help Santa (and Steve) out in the Control Room, and the "sleigh" that they use now to deliver presents was more of a hovercraft-type apparatus. The "real" sleigh that Grandsanta previously used was supposed to be chopped up for firewood, but he has secretly been hiding it with his reindeer in the stables (of course) for the past twenty to forty years or so. Steve runs a tight ship, and each elf has its own computer and has been assigned to a different sector for this operation.

My favorite character was actually Grandsanta, because he was delightfully insane. The film moves so fast that sometimes it's possible to miss bits of humor; for example, when Steve learns that one child has been forgotten, and tells the elves that the child doesn't matter, they gasp, and one elf tugs Steve's arm and says "Is there a list of children who don't matter? How will we know?" Santa is going a bit senile too - in one scene, Mrs. Claus gives him his Christmas present, and he thanks her, stares down at it, and then gives it back to her, wishing her a happy Christmas, as he thinks he is the one gifting it to her. The entire family is at odds for whom should be Santa - Steve thinks it should be him, Santa has doubts, and Grandsanta just wants to take off in the sleigh and prove that he can still do the job - and this causes endless hilariousness throughout the film.

Yes, see this movie. It slowed down a bit near the end, but otherwise was great fun. The elves and other characters in the film are voiced by a plethora of well-known actors, including Jim Broadbent, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Joan Cusack, and Imelda Staunton, as well as the voices listed previously. There were so many hilarious scenes and one-liners in the movie, and I enjoyed Arthur Christmas more than the Muppets, which I also saw this week. I will definitely be seeing this film again when it arrives on DVD, or maybe even a second time in the theater, and I recommend it for all ages.

Arthur Christmas is rated PG with a runtime of 97 minutes, and is in theaters today, November 23rd.

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Liz Parker is a 2009 graduate of the University of Michigan. She currently works as an Assistant Medical Editor for a pathology website. Visit her at her movie blog Yes/No Films
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