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Review: ‘Arthur Christmas’

'Arthur Christmas'

Slender in story yet nourishing to the soul — and very, very funny — Arthur Christmasmarks a number of “firsts” for Aardman Animations. It’s their first feature in five years, their first in 3D, and their first under a deal with Sony to finance, co-produce, and distribute their films.

Of all the “firsts” that Arthur Christmas represents, however, the most important is that it’s the debut of Sarah Smith. A former writer for “The Armando Ianucci Shows,” she makes her directorial debut, displaying a sharp wit that dovetails nicely with the classic Aardman combination of visual and verbal humor.

Indeed, though Aardman is mostly closely associated with the stop-motion clay animation techniques that won three Academy Awards for short films directed by Nick Park (Creature Comforts and two of the Wallace and Gromit shorts), what really sets the company apart creatively are the characters they create and the visual style they showcase.

Smith, who shares a screenplay credit with Peter Baynham, captures those qualities perfectly. And the wonderful voice cast, which includes James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, and Bill Nighy, clearly were not cast for their name value alone, but because they can actually act with their voices alone, infusing their characters with personality to spare.

McAvoy voices the title character, Santa’s bumbling younger son. Arthur, who appears to be a young adult, still has a child-like love of the holiday itself, and of all it represents to children worldwide. He slaves away answering letters from children to Santa, surrounded by stacks and stacks of mail, because he knows that Santa is real. He replies with the conviction of a True Believer, a cheerful proselyte, not merely because he knows that Santa exists, but because he’s happy to share that knowledge.

That stands in stark contrast to the other men of the Claus clan. Santa (Broadbent) has grown old and weary in the role. After 70 years of service in the red suit, it’s time for him to hang it up; he’s been phoning it in, as it were, but he’s not ready to face retirement. His father, known as Grandsanta (Nighy), doesn’t exactly set a sterling example for his son to follow; he’s fond of recalling the good old days and criticizing the current administration.

— From my review at Twitch.

Arthur Christmas is now playing wide across the Metroplex.