Review: Arthur Christmas

Christmas movies arrive earlier each year but releasing a big Christmas animation in mid-November might suggest a lack of faith. Despite their small screen dominance, national treasures Aardman Animation have struggled on the big screen, but this could be the one to really get them going.

Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) has been the figurehead of the Yuletide season for decades and he proudly oversees this year's delivery of presents in his hi-tech spacecraft, masterminded with military precision by eldest son Steve (Hugh Laurie). Down in the bowels of the craft, youngest son Arthur (James McAvoy) excitedly answers correspondence from the children of the world, including a young British girl called Gwen (Ramona Marquez).

A malfunction in the loading bay goes unnoticed by the elves in mission control and Gwen doesn't receive her pink bicycle. With time running out, Arthur joins forces with Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and wrapping elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) to deliver Gwen's gift.

Aardman knows not to overdo it with the sugar and get the kids over excited. Though, ultimately, the film delivers all the sentiment and uplift you'd want of a Christmas film, it makes you wait for it.

The premise – that operations at the North Pole have gone from being a small family business to a large unfeeling multinational – is actually rather unpleasant.

It isn't until the moment when Santa's idiot child Arthur and retired Grandpa Santa unveil the traditional sleigh and reindeers to save Christmas that the film takes off.

It doesn't match the heights of the best Pixar — it isn't that funny and the plot is thin and over-extended. But it is fun and contains two or three moments of absolute enchantment.

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Director: Sarah Smith

Featuring voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen

Length: 97 mins