Sony Pictures Animation
Santa's son, "Arthur Christmas," finds he's the only one who can save the holiday.
Santa has sons? And they're named Arthur and Steve? Who knew?
"Arthur Christmas" goes behind the scenes of Santa's workshop much as "Hop" did the Easter Bunny's candy-making factory. And man, holiday prep is a lot more complicated than Rankin/Bass ever let on.
Elves deploy in battalions, and pull off stunts rivaling anything in James Bond or "Mission: Impossible." They use hand-held scanners to check what percentage of a kid is naughty vs. nice. They sit in an enormous mission control room, a la NASA, and monitor the gift-delivery situation. Milk and cookies are converted to biofuel, and Santa flies around not in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, but in an enormous, Starship Enterprise-size behemoth of a spaceship. It's all the brainchild of Santa's elder son, Steve (voice of Hugh Laurie), who boasts a Christmas tree-shaped goatee, holiday-hued cammo, and a corporate-military ruthlessness that's light years away from the simple Santa legend of past years.
Santa's younger son, Arthur (voice of James McAvoy), is a mess. Good-hearted and klutzy, he's relegated to the letter-answering room and wears googly-eyed reindeer slippers that are always tripping him up. But when a gift somehow gets left behind despite all the organization and efficiency, it's Arthur, with help from grandfather Grand Santa, who ensures a little girl in England gets the pink twinkle bike she longs for.
"Arthur Christmas" is beautifully animated and the 3-D is used well here, it reaches out and pulls the audience into Arthur's world. It was time for a fresh take on Santa -- even a legend can change, a classic story take on new dimensions. It's impossible not to root for Arthur and crusty Grand Santa, who snarks that "during World War II, I did the whole thing with six reindeer and a drunken elf." But thankfully, even big ol' Steve wasn't written as a villain. He's just a gung-ho Type A manager who's determined to keep the family business running, even if that business is Christmas.
The list of really good Christmas movies, the kind you make a part of your family tradition and watch over and over, doesn't change that much from year to year. Adults and kids alike will be happy to add "Arthur" and family to that list.
What's your favorite Christmas movie? Tell us in the comments.