As a young child, I was not alone in believing the legend of Santa Claus. He was larger than life and exuded much joy and happiness. However, some of the kids in my class during my elementary school years made raised some valid questions I’d never really tried to answer before. Who was this man, and how can he do the things people say?
How was he able to fit down the chimney?
How can he eat all of those cookies?
How can he deliver presents to all the kids worldwide in one night?
These were great questions, but the way my peers asked such questions seemed to demean and vilify Old Saint Nicholas. It was hurtful that a man who was a positive force for good seemed to spark doubt. As I grew older, I enjoyed seeing the love of Santa through many kids’ eyes when it came time for the holiday season. 2011 was a great time of year because Justin Bieber had released his Christmas single Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and the year saw the theatrical release of Arthur Christmas. I was over the moon. This film finally existed for kids everywhere— a film explaining all of these questions eating at my childhood soul. I would finally have closure. I am glad this film exists for many kids out there who want to keep that spark of wonder alive.
Arthur Christmas follows the titular mythical legend fully immersed in Santa Claus history. His family has lived it. Santa Claus is not just one individual. Santa has been the mantle for generations. GrandSanta is (Pirates of the Caribbean‘s Bill Nighy) in this film. He was a former beacon of light during major historical events like the Cuban Missile Crisis and more. He is whimsically weird but offers grains of truth through the comedic madness. Then there is his son Malcolm Claus (The Half-Blood Prince‘s Jim Broadbent), a sincere but shy man who feels the need to take charge but seems to be holding himself back. Then again, when you have been Santa since 1941, I can’t blame him.
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Next, we have Steven Claus, a driven, business-oriented son but at times cynical. He is good at his job but doesn’t understand why this job is unlike any other job in this universe. Hugh Laurie’s work on the widely acclaimed House appears to have paid off. He pulls off a great performance which he usually does. Don’t forget— he was in Stuart Little. The man has range. Bravo, Mr. Laurie.
Rounding out the cast, we have the man who was the brave faun from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and the leader of the future X-Men; James McAvoy as our hero, Arthur Christmas. I adore this guy. From his amazing Christmas sweater, wacky-eyed reindeer slippers, and his jolly of a laugh, Arthur is a part of one of the most memorable Christmas events ever.
We find out Christmas is a NASA/CIA level type operation. I love how much the elves are a family and are game to help bring Santa’s mission to life. There are 364 days to plan every possible moment to ensure every child is given their most memorable holiday season. Arthur, the youngest, is kind and clumsy who works in the mailroom who is in awe of the excitement. We see how the operation, while successful, leaves the reindeer out of the festivities. Since the sleigh is automated, Malcolm is mostly on the sidelines now.
Arthur wants to get involved after a mission nearly exposes Santa to a kid, almost ruining the magic, and sends a present off the main assembly line. That means this present went unnoticed and won’t make it on time. He received a letter from a girl who wishes for this one present. It warms your heart. Steve deduces the missed present isn’t a big deal. Arthur refuses to accept this, and he and his grandfather go on a whirlwind adventure to deliver this present.
They decide to use the old ways, consisting of sleigh and reindeer. When you unexpectedly let reindeer out of retirement, there is no way anything can go wrong.
Let’s just say they say get lost on three different continents, lose several of their reindeer, and encounter many obstacles, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Arthur is driven through faith and love in what Santa Claus means to this little girl, and it is so inspiring. I love that we see how a young lives his life in service of others and that each act of kindness can truly be life-changing.
Harry Gregson-Williams delivers an amazing score. He worked on the music for the first two Narnia films, so he knows what he is doing.
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Props to Aardman Animation for spearheading this feature. They are known for claymation (clay mixed with the wonder of stop motion animation) hits like Chicken Run, Wallace, and Gromit, Shaun, the Sheep, and Flushed Away. I think there is a bright future ahead of them. I think it’s great to have a studio that is not Disney owned, Dreamworks, etc., that can dish out animated treasure like this one. I am in no way bashing the names mentioned earlier. I am eternally grateful for their work. But it is that much more special when we get to see the talent that isn’t a major studio conjure up animated wonder. I am thankful a story like this was told, and I hope many kids out there will find joy in this film ten years later.