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Operation Santa Claus is in effect with Arhtur Christmas... in high-def 3D, no less....
Sony / 97 Minutes / 2011 / Rated PG / Street Date: November 6, 2012
Arthur Christmas, if anything, recognizes and affirms its holiday-cinema roots. There's a lot of Elf here, a lot of Grinch, more than a little Wonderful Life - in concocting this 3D animated trip of a flick, the filmmakers here have done their homework and figured out what has worked best in Christmas programming in years passed and frontloaded their story with those most effective attributes.
The result is a movie that has broad, simple appeal. The setup in a nutshell revolves around the fact that Christmas at the North Pole has become a mechanized affair - Santa (Jim Broadbent) travels via fancy neo-sleigh, and every event of the holiday is scheduled out to binary precision. But when a present goes undelivered (gasp!) and Santa and his team decide to keep moving along and just let the mistake be made, Santa's bumbling kid, Arthur (James McAvoy) and his grandpa (Bill Nighy) steal an old-school sleigh and try to deliver the passed-over pink bicycle to the good little girl who so deserves it.
At the end of the day, it's easy to say that Arthur Christmas works. Enough homework has been done in terms of prepping its holiday-movie sensibilities that the movie knows what to do in order to throw a net over its audience. But (not surprisingly) this limits its potential as a standalone piece. Arthur Christmas is a noble and often cute narrative, but there's no soul underneath it, no red-lit nose guiding its way.