Published Nov 23, 2011It's been a while since a holiday movie actually captured the spirit and sentiment of the season without doting on troublesome topics like consumerism or Judeo-Christian beliefs. And while exuberant and propulsive British import Arthur Christmas has some peculiar and unintentionally hypocritical things to say about technological advancement, it values compassion over efficiency and inclusion over disregard while delivering a consistent array of laughs for adults and children alike.
Opening up with a practical view of the Santa mythology, noting the many inconsistencies, this traditionalist parable presents a modernized North Pole with legions of alacritous elves going all Mission: Impossible nationwide, dangling from an enormous air carrier that mirrors the night sky. Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent) is merely the figurehead of the enterprise, leaving the practical militaristic applications to his Type-A son, Steve (Hugh Laurie), while other son Arthur (James McAvoy) bumbles about, writing letters to individual children around the world.
The impetus of the story lies in the kid-ified concept of collateral damage, wherein one little girl left without a gift is acceptable considering the greater good. Inevitably, this doesn't sit well with the idealistic Arthur, who sets out on an old school reindeer and sleigh expedition with his grandfather (Bill Nighy) and a bow-obsessed elf (Ashley Jensen) to deliver that one overlooked gift.
Overlooking the crude vulgarity of idealizing the "good old days," similarly ignoring, or relishing, the hypocrisy of vilifying technology, which is yet another male construct resultant of said "good old days," this journey proves wholeheartedly entertaining.
Inadvertently running into the CN Tower, since the coordinates for the sleigh haven't been updated in half-a-century, this reindeer-propelled sojourn becomes one slip up and mix up after another, going from Canada to Africa to Mexico while cracking jokes about lead paint and the difficulties of teaching women to read.
While clipping along at a solid enough pace to keep even the most restless child engaged, the great thing about Arthur Christmas is the dry, referential and exceedingly self-conscious sense of humour. In fact, very few adult comedies manage to dole out the amount of clever gags and generational discourse present in this holiday romp, which is impressive considering how broad the intended audience is.
And acknowledging its slightly contradictory, albeit heartfelt, message, they even manage to throw in a final reel gag for those more learned by stating, "We hope that every Christmas is white." (Sony)