Arthur Christmas (2011)

Director:  Sarah Smith
Cast:  James McAvoyHugh LaurieBill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton
Plot:  On Christmas night at the North Pole, Santa's youngest son looks to use his father's high-tech operation for an urgent mission.

Genre:  Animation / Comedy / Drama
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Animated Feature.
Runtime:  97min
Rating:  G for some mild rude humor.

Towards the end of every year, there is the requisite animated or live-action movie about Christmas.  This year, we have Arthur Christmas, an animation feature created by Aardman Animations no less.  
 Famous for their stop-motion claymation Wallace and Gromit shorts and films, Aardman Animations now collaborates with Sony Pictures Animation to deliver only their second computer-generated feature after Flushed Away (2006), which was a collaboration with DreamWorks.  

Directed by Sarah Smith, who makes her directorial feature debut, Arthur Christmas is a family movie that everyone can more or less enjoy, in particular, the kids.  The film debunks the myth that Santa Claus is a fictional construct.  

In an extraordinary prologue sequence, Santa and his elves put up an extravagant show of unity and determination as they deliver presents to each sleeping (and good) kid in the world in the wee hours, before daylight merrily marks the morning of Christmas.

Arthur (James McAvoy) lives at the North Pole, collecting and replying letters from kids from around the world.  Well, you see, his father is Santa, and his older brother heads the sophisticated computer and technology department that keeps human error to zilch.

The real story begins when one of the presents fails to be delivered to a child in a small village in the UK. Arthur is concerned, even though the rest of his family, except his grandfather, are not.  Arthur and his grandfather set off in a journey to make things right but face obstacles along the way.  

Although much of how the story progresses is conventional, the film engages somewhat with its blend of humor that is broader than the average animated film, yet remains family-oriented, especially of the interactions between Arthur and his grandfather.

Arthur Christmas does get uninteresting along the way.  After one of the best openings for an animated film this year, it sustains for a while before struggling to match the level of engagement and intensity for the rest of the film.

In the realm of animation, Arthur Christmas taxonomically straddles between kiddy and moderate youth-oriented fare.  Adults may find it less satisfying by the end of the film, unless they are accompanied by happy kids.  Many positives have been surrounding the film in recent weeks, with some critics branding it an instant Christmas classic.  For me, I feel it is generally overrated, and not a must-watch.

GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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