Arthur Christmas Blu-ray Review
Home video gives movies a second chance at success. ARTHUR CHRISTMAS was considered a box office disappointment when it came out. That really is a shame because this is a delightful family film that is sure to please people of all ages. It’s a clever tale about the inner workings of the North Pole, Santa Claus, the elves and all the work that goes on behind the scenes of Christmas.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS begins with a child that asks questions that really are reasonable when you think about them. How does Santa get around the world in one night delivering gifts? Does his bag get bigger as the population grows? What about those pesky chimneys? This movie attempts to answer some of these questions and more in an entertaining fashion. The opening sequence is exciting. Santa (voice of Jim Broadbent) goes around in a high tech spaceship to distribute the toys. He is helped immeasurably by an army of elves. Director Sarah Smith does a fine job showing the frantic nature of this operation. It feels like you are watching a Mission Impossible film instead of an animated flick. The elves have everything down like clockwork. They are prepared for anything that comes their way whether it is an alarm system, trusty dog or heaven forbid an awaken child. That poses the greatest risk. Children are not supposed to see all the magic that happens before they scamper down the stairs.
The title character is Arthur (voice of James McAvoy), the son of Santa. He is a bit of a klutz, but he really gets the spirit of Christmas. Arthur tackles the job of the mail room with gusto and the fervor needed for this holiday. People around the North Pole like Arthur, but don’t exactly respect him. His brother Steve (voice of Hugh Laurie) runs the North Pole like a military operation. He has installed all these gadgets and screens that seemingly cover everything. Steve is next in line to take over as Santa when his father steps down. He is ambitious and a real go getter. The one drawback is that he isn’t sentimental or joyous in bringing such happiness to children. He seems to take greater pleasure in mapping out the maneuvers and having everything go as planned. Steve reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock in a way. Hitchcock loved storyboarding and scouting locations a lot more than actually filming his scenes. The process fascinates Steve and Hitchcock more than the actual result.
On this night everything appears to go flawlessly, but there is a slight problem. One child has not received her present and there is little time to get it to her. Steve doesn’t seem overly concerned with this and is more impressed by his overall numbers. Santa these days relies heavily on Steve’s advice and decides to do nothing. Arthur will not stand for this. He believes it is not a successful Christmas without every child getting a gift. This is where ARTHUR CHRISTMAS delves into a rollicking road flick. Arthur gets Grandsanta (voice of Bill Nighy) and Bryony (voice of Ashley Jensen), an elf from the Giftwrap Battalion, involved in his plan. Grandsanta is what you call a scene stealer. He cracks wise about the good old days and spins some wild tales. It really is fun to watch him do his thing. The trio uses the oldies but goodies such as the sleigh, reindeers and magic dust. Viewers will appreciate tradition that sometimes gets lost in the bustling world that we have today. Sure you will probably know how the story will ultimately end. That isn’t the point. The point is breathing new life into a well told story and having some fun along the way. There is a nice lesson to be learned while not cramming it down your throat.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS is the latest computer animated film from Aardman Animations with first time collaboration from Sony Pictures Animation. Aardman Animations previously had done Flushed Away and the stop-motion animated film Chicken Run. The images on the screen just come alive. Each detail is beautifully realized like Arthur’s office things to a tiny town in Scotland that begins the movie.
Smith and fellow screenwriter Peter Baynham find the perfect balancing act of entertaining children and adults. Kids should be enthralled by all that is happening on screen, the genial humor and the easy to follow story. Adults will love the ever amusing updated graphic on operational sleighs there are and how many reindeers are left. The older crowd will also get the sibling rivalry that is weaved in and how parents can indeed favor some children over others. The figurehead status of Santa can be relatable to sports and political leaders. I immediately thought of former FSU football coach Bobby Bowden in this parallel. Bowden was intimately involved in all aspects of his team early in his career. He took glee in devising trick plays to deceive the opponent. As Bowden’s tenure winded down, he let Jimbo Fisher take over the offense and he became more of an administrator. It is understandable that you have more energy in your younger days and greater enthusiasm for your job. That can happen if you are Santa, a football coach or a king in medieval times.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS should be given a second chance and become an annual holiday classic that it richly deserves.
Video (1.85:1): The picture in this format is stupendous. The greens and reds stand out like they should in this holiday film. You sense the warmth of Arthur’s office and the coldness of the North Pole. It is too bad that you can’t experience the 3-D that was displayed in theaters.
Audio (5.1 DTS-HD MA): The sound comes alive at every turn. Action films should sound as good as this.
Unwrapping Arthur Christmas (13:26): The stars and filmmakers discuss the film and what it all entailed. Fun breezy segment.
Progression Reels (13:51): The filmmakers get all technical on how scenes were created. Adults will probably like this more than kids. It is informative on how much is involved in the different settings, costumes, movements of the elves and even something as trivial as the hair of the characters. They go into more detail about Arthur’s office, the spectacle of Grandsanta, the exciting invasion and much more.
Elf Recruitment Video (1:03): Amusing military-like video of becoming an elf.