Barry Cook, Sarah Smith – U – 97 mins
From Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run fame, Aardman Animations have foregone their traditional clay-prodding, stop-motion style which has since made them a national icon, in their latest computer animated festive release, Arthur Christmas. Nevertheless, it’s still as warm, funny and characteristically Aardman as you might nostalgically remember from classics such as The Wrong Trousers.
As much as the prospect of critically tearing apart yet another “let’s save Christmas” movie excited me, after fifteen minutes you will not regret feeling a bit silly at the box office when sheepishly asking for tickets for a U-rated film. The plot centres round an undelivered present to a child in Cornwall, after an apparently successful present-dishing night. Although you might think that the Christmas film has been a well-worn genre, the writers manage to make enough changes to make it feel fresh and pleasing on so many levels. Parents will be kept awake through the developing power relationships between Santa and his bitter father and upcoming eldest son, children will be enchanted by the exciting plot-twists, and those people in-between will be re-infected with some Christmas cheer, or at least find many genuinely funny moments. If that’s not enough, Cambridge’s own Hugh Laurie voices Steve, the eldest son yearning for the “Santa” title and the operational mastermind behind Christmas. Although the ending doesn’t throw many surprises, and the terribly good-natured but clumsy cliche of a children’s protagonist “Arthur” can be a bit grinding, I don’t think since Muppets re-enacted A Christmas Carol have children’s Christmas films been so entertaining.