Graphic Language: None
Strong Sexual Content: None
Santa’s getting old. After 70 deliveries, he’s the figurehead of what is now a large package-delivering corporation, run (in-part) by his two children, Steve (voiced perfectly by House M.D. Hugh Laurie) and Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy of Mr. Tumnus and Professor X fame). Steve runs the North Pole as a military command center, with thousands of commando elves at his disposal, the latest technology, and a goatee cut in the shape of a Christmas tree. While Steve is all-go no-quit, Arthur is a bit bumbling, afraid of heights, things that go fast, and buttons. He works in the Letters Division, reading all of the letters kids write to Santa—and answering every one.
In the incredibly shot opening sequence, all of the toys and presents are delivered on time, in perfect Mission Impossible fashion. Harnessed elves descend from a cloaked ship, delivering perfectly wrapped packages to an entire city in less than eight minutes. Elves drinking (not coffee) hot chocolate mounded with marshmallows chart and graph every movement with Google Earth-like precision. However, upon Arthur’s stumbling entrance into Command Central (and through a series of unpredictably small events) one toy is accidentally knocked over into a pile of old, discarded wrapping and missed.
That means one child won’t get a present. One child has been forgotten at Christmas.
Once the mistake has been found, Steve and Santa (Jim Broadbent) brush it off as just one present missed. There isn’t time to deliver it anyway. Arthur is stunned, and decides to take matters into his own hands. From there, it’s up to him, GrandSanta (Bill Nighy), and Scottish-burred elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) to deliver the last package to the child and keep the magic and wonder of Santa alive.
From the opening sequence to the credits, this movie is an absolute delight. I can’t say enough good things about it. From Aardman Studios (Wallace and Gromit, Flushed Away), Arthur Christmas is sit up at the edge of your seat funny, from everything in the background you don’t catch the first time around (there’s a canister in GrandSanta’s reindeer stable marked “Chimney Lube”) to the ridiculously clever writing and over the top accents. There’s something about an elf in a kilt with a thick Scottish brogue that cracks me up every time.
The story is deep, the characters are layered, and the animation, like Pixar, doesn’t get in the way. At times you actually forget you’re watching animation, and the characters become absolutely real. Not only that, Aardman has a great sense of pacing and action, right down to the whip zooms and camera angles.
The only things I would say (and honestly, it’s only two) are two jokes that zipped right over the heads of the kids, but were pushing the envelope. One is from GrandSanta (whose lines made me laugh out loud throughout the entire movie) who lands in what he thinks is France—but is actually Africa. He starts speaking broken French with an English accent, and asks where the lingerie department is. The other is a Chihuahua, who Arthur encounters in a house. Arthur wears light-up moose slippers, and the Chihuahua latches on and does what every dog does to a guest’s leg if it wants to completely embarrass it’s owner. Arthur quips, “Wow, he likes my slippers even more than I do.”
Two over-the-head jokes in an otherwise perfect movie. This is a must-see in the theater. Two days later, my kids are still talking about how good it was—even my four year old, which is really saying something.
Two things jumped out at me from Arthur Christmas. Arthur can’t understand why his dad and his brother are willing to let one child go un-presented. Out of the eight billion presents delivered, only one present got missed. In any corporation, a 0.000000000125% margin for error would be seen as absolute success. But not to Arthur. Every child is important. In Luke 15, Jesus told a story about a famer who had one hundred sheep. Ninety-nine of them were safe, cared for, penned and guarded, but one got lost. Jesus asked, “What will the shepherd do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness to go search for the one until he finds it?” Jesus was making the point that heaven rejoices over the one lost-now-found sinner more than the ninety-nine who are already safe. To Arthur, every child deserves Santa. Every child deserves that warm-cheeked feeling of coming down to the tree, ripping open a present, and finding their young heart’s desire beneath the wrappings. To Jesus, every soul deserves the same. Every soul deserves that warm-cheeked feeling of coming to the cross, ripping open their hearts, and finding salvation in the arms of a loving savior. The other line that struck me was repeated several times by Byrony, the elf (who works in the wrapping division) who helps Arthur. She says, “There’s always time for a bow.” No matter what the circumstance or situation, gift-wrapping an out-of-control bike speeding down a snowy hill or facing off against lions in the African savannah, there’s always time to top the gift off with a bow. Translation? No matter what you’re facing, what trial or tribulation, there’s always time to take time for joy. Though the sorrow may last for the night, the Bible tells us, joy comes in the morning. For us as Christians, it’s imperative that we take time to celebrate—our lives, our families, our Jesus. There’s always time for a bow. Some questions: Like in Arthur Christmas, is there one person you know who is a bit lost? What can you do to bring them back home? What are three things, right now, that you can celebrate? Where are three “joyful” things in your life? This season, challenge yourself to take time. Whether it be to laugh at a great movie or sit with family by the fire, take “you” time. You give to others all week, all month, all year, but this season, take time for you. You’ll find it might just be the best present of the year!