Movie previews normally give away an entire film in the hopes of stimulating the proper response from the masses and therefore earning the most amount of money opening weekend. I get it, this is a business. However, whoever created the trailer for Arthur Christmas really blew it. It seems like they were focused on evoking feelings of Pixar's 2009 Prep and Landing TV special and tricking people into coming to the theater for a peek behind the scenes of high-tech Christmas. What they failed to show was the enormous wit, heart, and charm of their beautifully written script. If anyone actually takes a chance on it despite their lack of enthusiasm, it will be a Christmas miracle.
The Christmas family men have the honor of being Santa Claus, and pass the torch when the time is right. The current Santa (Jim Broadbent) is on the verge of retiring, and his older son Steve (Hugh Laurie) is the holiday golden child. He has revolutionized Christmas, booting the wheezy, temperamental reindeer pulling a sleigh and replacing them with a sleek, technologically spectacular space ship. The bordering-on-lazy Santa has allowed himself to become almost obsolete, because the elves do everything (and he's a bit dim to begin with). The youngest kid in the family, Arthur, seems a long shot for ever overcoming his clumsy ways and getting out of the letter-writing department, until he discovers a toy left undelivered. Around him, no one seems to remember the true meaning of Christmas except for him and an overzealous elf from the Wrapping Department named Bryony (Ashley Jensen). They have to get that present delivered. Let the adventure begin.
I thought that every touching film about the holidays had already been made and made over, getting more and more diluted with every year. However, the minute this ended, I wanted it on DVD so I could put it into the holiday movie rotation. Not only is Arthur representative of the kid in all of us that slips into this time of year like warm footy pajamas, but he also represents what we wish we could be: steadfast in the face of danger and standing tall against all odds to do what is right. It's certainly not a new concept, but when presented by the pros at Aardman Animations (responsible for the Wallace and Gromit series), it reminds me of a time when I cared about heroes and wanted them to succeed. The complex characters are everywhere too--the bad guys aren't evil, just flawed (and probably tired from a night of delivering presents all over the world).
During kids' movies I always listen to the response of the little ones around me to know if it's working or not. I have no idea what they were saying during this film because I was the one gasping and exclaiming "No!" at every obstacle and sighing with relief at every resolution. Although it got a little talky towards the end when all I wanted to see was that kid get his present, it's just plain charming. And between you and me, I got misty at the end too. And by "misty" I mean thankful that my 3D glasses were covering the tears streaming down my face. Be more like Arthur and stand up for movies that actually mean something.