Movie Review: “Arthur Christmas”

Written by Pam-Marie Gx December 02, 2011

Arthur Claus is coming to town… if he ever figures out how stairs work.

Arthur Christmas tells the tale of the title character (played by James McAvoy) as he flies in the face of wisdom and fights his fears to try and bring a present to the one girl, named Gwen, who was forgotten. To do this he teams up with his incredibly old Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and an elf from the wrapping section in order to make Christmas special for Gwen.

First, immediately before the movie begins, we are treated to a middle-of-puberty Justin Bieber, singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in the manner of the Hanson Brothers. While he refrains from actually saying the words “Mm Bop,” he appears to have taken the vibe of the Hanson Brothers and Aaron Carter into his heart. The video looks like it was made by someone who had had steampunk explained to them by a 5-year-old who only had Wild Wild West and the Island of Misfit Toys for references. Luckily it doesn’t last long, and the rest of the movie is more than ridiculous enough to wipe it from your memory.

The movie actually starts off rather well. We begin by hearing Gwen read her letter to Santa, where she, quite reasonably, asks how Santa is able to travel the world and reach every house in one night. She’s seven or eight and actually asks Santa to account for how he could possibly be keeping up with exponential population growth. She seems like a smart, interesting child who we don’t really see or hear from again until the very end of the movie. The letter-receiver Arthur responds to this letter in a bit of a silly manner, telling her to remember that Santa has Magic on his side. From here we cut to the Star Trek Enterprise, from which an army of midget ninjas is descending!

That’s where the cool ends and the idiotic begins. Honestly, this movie is so bad on so many levels that I’m not entirely sure where to begin. I suppose I should begin with the main character, Arthur. Arthur is special, by which I mean “eats his cereal with a fork” special. In one of the first scenes he can’t seem to figure out how stairs work, and proceeds to cause all sorts chaos amongst the very busy elves who are trying to organize and guide Santa and the army on the Santaprise (aka the S-1). Arthur doesn’t improve over the course of the movie. He explicitly states how he is ever-so-afraid of everything, ad nauseam, and is constantly failing to use even the most rudimentary amount of common sense.

Now, there is another major character in this movie who I have so far failed to mention. This is Arthur’s brother, Steve Claus (voiced by Hugh Laurie), who is next in line to assume the mantle of Santa. He is super-intelligent, organized and capable, but is almost portrayed as the bad guy in this film. His great sin is supposedly ambition, however this flaw doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Here is why: Steve is, approximately, 60 years old (given that the Claus family lives to be around 130 and each Santa is suppose to have a 70-year reign), and they say that the Santaprise (or S-1), which he invented, has been around and basically doing the job of Santa since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This means that Steve invented the Santaprise at around 10 years old, and has been doing the job of Santa, with no credit or recognition, for the past 50 years. Yet he’s overly ambitious for wanting his dad to follow tradition and hand over the title of Santa after 70 years, 50 of which he had been getting the credit for his son’s innovations. It gives the movie an air of anti-intellectualism and the moral at the end is rather ambiguous, perhaps being that a kind heart is more important than drive, intelligence, or commitment.

The rest of the film is rather hit-and-miss. Many of the jokes would go way over the heads of any child watching, and adults could get very frustrated with the characters and logical fallacies in the movie. The animation goes from good to almost entertainingly bad, especially in Africa where we see lions with chins that would make Bruce Campbell envious and elephants that are about the same size as said lions. The flight scenes are pretty cool, though, and the S-1 is a really neat concept. Often, though, the good ideas are simply left to hang while we follow the antics of the more annoying characters.

My Rating: 4/10

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About Pam-Marie Gx

Pam-Marie Gx

Reader, writer, student, movie-goer, drinker of rum - Pam-Marie is all these things, and more! She has a large appetite for both media and caffeine, and spends most of her time with some sort of electronic device close at hand. You can follow her on Twitter @PamMarieGx. She may even occasionally be amusing.

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