THIS is an instant Christmas classic.
Visually stunning with an engaging story, lovable characters and humour that keeps adult and child alike amused throughout.
British animators Aardman have created a film that will fill stockings for years.
The plot is fairly simple.
Arthur, the youngest of Santa’s two sons, attempts to save the day after the man with the big white beard makes the worst possible mistake – he forgets a child.
James McAvoy voices the title character, our hero Arthur, who works for his father in the letters department.
We instantly fall in love with his passion for Christmas, his devotion to answering children’s letters, his clumsy and affable nature.
While Arthur is concerned with the magic of ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, his elder brother Steve (Hugh Laurie) is an ambitious go-getter who makes it all happen.
Steve has brought Santa (Jim Broadbent) into the 21st century and perhaps beyond.
His space ship (shaped like a futuristic sleigh, with a black star-studded canvas look underneath to disguise it) allows Santa to traverse the glove in record-breaking time.
An army of elves drop from zip lines, infiltrate houses, disable security alarms, placate patrolling guard dogs and place gifts under the tree in every household.
Little touches like the elves’ GPS enabled hand held gadgets, allowing them to scan children for good or naughtiness, are part of the film’s genius – it’s a completely new take on the age old question, ‘how does Santa deliver all those presents to all those boys and girls on Christmas morning?’
He doesn’t, Steve’s elves do.
But Santa, who is nearing retirement, is still on hand to give his approval and a token contribution to the mission.
Unfortunately, disaster strikes as Steve’s foolproof systems and technological advances are unable to pick up the fact that a present has been left undelivered.
While the computer may say that 99.9 per cent delivery is good enough, and a second trip out to deliver a bicycle isn’t possible, Arthur believes in Christmas.
He forces the issue and is dragged into a rescue mission by long retired Grandsanta, a brilliantly eccentric character voiced by Bill Nighy.
The old fashioned methods of yesteryear – flying reindeer, a wooden sleigh and a present-wrapping dynamo of an Elf called Bryony (Ashley Jensen) – are all that Arthur has as support as he battles to save one little girl’s Christmas.
The subplot of Steve’s burning desire to get the job when his father hangs up his big black boots versus Arthur’s sheer belief in the idea of Santa, leaves us guessing just long enough as to how things will work out – because it’s the kind of film that doesn’t leave anyone on the losing side.
There are so many witty little jokes and visual gags that keep adults hooked, while the story, the strength of the characters and the pleasing aesthetics are enough for kids.
The dynamic of Santa’s family is perfect for a Christmas film.
It includes the kind of relationship we’ve come to expect from the man himself and his good lady wife (Imelda Staunton), as she chides him lovingly and bites her tongue to support her man, despite his imperfections.
Almost every family will recognise someone, whether it’s the cantankerous and slightly mad old relative or the competitive one who has to win games on Christmas day.
At just 97 minutes there is little in the way of filler and the dedication to detail makes this a jolly good show.
by Graham Smyth