British actors James McAvoy

British actors James McAvoy

Aisle Seat: Santa gets the Aardman retrofit

Morning Star movie reviewer Jason Armstrong gives Arthur Christmas three stars out of five.

  • Dec. 4, 2011 5:00 p.m.

There have been a lot of movies exploring the mystery of old Saint Nick.

Just how DOES he get all those toys around the world in one night, or, perhaps more intriguingly, how does he consume millions of carbs via complimentary cookies and milk, and somehow survive to see another year of chimney plunging?

Now, many films have offered up better, more whimsical explanations than Arthur Christmas, but the fact that this one is at least willing to give Santa’s gig a fresh coat of innovation is a big plus. It doesn’t hurt at all that Arthur Christmas is a pretty charming holiday treat either.

It seems that Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) has relied on technology to keep his global gift giving tradition alive.  In a massive operation headed up by his son Steve (Hugh Laurie), the North Pole is like the world’s biggest assembly line – a gigantic data base tracks the naughty, the nice and the present dispersal. It’s a pretty elaborate job itself that involves numerous rappelling Ninja-like elves, dispersing gifts to various “regions” on the map.

Efficient? Absolutely. Cold? A wee bit. But Santa’s youngest son, Arthur (James McAvoy), is a good-hearted soul, hopelessly clumsy, but dedicated to keeping the magic of Christmas alive. So when a technical error prevents a girl named Gwen from getting her present, it’s not surprising that the glitch is regarded as an unfortunate-yet-acceptable casualty of the system.

Not Arthur. He commandeers an old-school wooden sleigh, a flying reindeer, and takes matters into his own hands.

The first project from the U.K.’s Aardman Animation since 2006’s Flushed Away (and the same gang behind the wonderful Wallace and Gromit features), Arthur Christmas probably won’t be able to budge onto the top of the holiday classics shelf, but I think this team would settle for “give it a try.” It’s playful, it’s sentimental and maybe a little too lively for its own good, but far from a lump of coal.

The feature is currently playing at Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

–– Jason Armstrong is The Morning Star’s longtime movie reviewer.