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Sarah Smith, Barry Cook
James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen, Marc Wootton, Laura Linney
Writing Credits:
Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith

All elf breaks loose.

Arthur Christmas reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: 'So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But at the center of the film is a story about a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero, Arthur, with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$12.700 million on 3376 screens.
Domestic Gross
$46.440 million.

Rated PG

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Service
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $30.99
Release Date: 11/6/2012

• "Unwrapping Arthur Christmas" Featurette
• Progression Reels
• "Elf Recruitment Video"
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Arthur Christmas (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 31, 2012)

If I were a betting man, I'd gamble that the producers of 2011's Arthur Christmas really would've liked to give it the more logical name Arthur Claus. However, they wouldn't want it to appear to be tied to the 2007 Vince Vaughn dud Fred Claus, so that wouldn't have been a good option. Why not Arthur Kringle or Son of Santa or the like? I don't know, but Arthur Christmas was what we got.

Fred Claus was a fairly terrible film, so I hoped that Arthur would manage more entertainment. Both boast semi-similar themes, as they involve Santa's relatives. Here we learn that the current Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is actually the twentieth man to hold that title/position. (Santa the 19th - here called "Grandsanta" [Bill Nighy] is still kicking, but I guess the others have moved to the Great Toy Shop in the Sky.) We see the entirety of Santa's massive organization and find out how he manages to do his work in just one night.

On the job since 1941, Santa the 20th borders on figurehead status and appears close to retirement. Practical-minded son Steve (Hugh Laurie) strives for the job as Santa the 21st, while Santa's dreamier other son Arthur (James McAvoy) just seems to be happy to do what he can to help.

Two problems arise. First, Santa decides to defer his retirement, which makes Steve decidedly unhappy and eager to push his way to the top. More immediately, however, the team learns that a toy didn't get delivered. Steve seems fine with this, but Arthur gets upset that one child won't have a happy Christmas. With the aid of Grandsanta and an elf named Bryony (Ashley Jensen), they sneak out to deliver the gift to little Gwen Hines (Ramona Marquez) and save Christmas.

Arthur was the first of two Peter Lord-produced films that came out over a fairly short period of time. Due to seasonal patterns, though, April 2012's The Pirates! Band of Misfits hit home video a few months ahead of November 2011's Arthur. (Studios will release non-family holiday flicks any time of year, but usually they'll hold Christmas titles for the mid-fall to optimize sales.)

I loved Pirates and would love to state that Arthur lives up to its level of inspired lunacy. I can't - at least not in a wholehearted way. While Arthur gets in its laughs, it's not on the same level as the wild and wicked Pirates.

Though at least it gets better as it goes. The first half of Arthur tends to be a bit of a drag, largely because it includes so many off-putting characters. We have two "real Santas", a Santa in waiting, and a son of Santa, none of whom are particularly enjoyable.

Arthur's the only one who falls into the potentially likable/sympathetic category, but he's such a one-dimensional Pollyanna that he creates annoyance. The others are fairly limited as well, and they're portrayed in an awfully negative way. Santa's too distant and aloof, while Steve's little more than a career-obsessed yuppie type. Grandsanta has potential as the kooky coot, but he's too self-centered to allow us to invest in him.

This does change as the movie progresses, especially as we wander toward the flawed characters' predictable redemption. Nonetheless, the scars remain; even when Santa, Steve and Grandsanta change, we don't really care all that much.

At least the antics of Arthur, Grandsanta and the rest manage to create some fun and laughs as the movie progresses. As I mentioned, the flick doesn't approach the hysterics of Pirates, but the film's second half manages to be reasonably amusing and clever.

Arthur comes with a ton of prominent actors in its cast. In addition to those already named, we find folks like Eva Longoria, Laura Linney, Imelda Staunton, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, and Michael Palin. None of them manage to do much with their parts, though none of them harm the project, either. Actually, McAvoy can seem irritating, but that's mostly due to the nature of the character; perhaps another actor could've made Arthur less annoying, but I think that would've been a tough job.

In the end, I regard Arthur Christmas as serviceable holiday entertainment. The movie sputters in its first half but manages enough winning material the rest of the way to redeem it. Don't expect anything brilliant here, but there's a fair amount to enjoy.

Not-very-family-friendly-footnote: am I the only one who thought when they freaked out about a "waker" that they shouted "we have a wanker"? I suspect I'm not alone - and given the comedy often embraced by the Aardman folks, I don't think it was an accident.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus D+

Arthur Christmas appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Within the limitations of SD-DVD, this was a good presentation.

For its format, sharpness looked positive. Softness did affect wider shots, but that was inevitable. Overall definition remained fairly solid. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I saw no signs of edge haloes. Source flaws remained totally absent as well.

Colors became a highlight. The movie enjoyed a broad palette, with standard Christmas hues at the core. A wide variety of other tones appeared as well, and all of them looked rich and dynamic. Blacks were dark and deep, and I thought shadows seemed smooth and clear. This was a very nice SD-DVD transfer.

Though also not killer, the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack worked well, as the movie demonstrated good range and activity. The forward channels did the most damage, as they showed nice movement and integration. The surrounds offered a solid level of involvement as well, as the movie packed a lot of action scenes to add to the proceedings.

Audio quality was fine. Speech was consistently natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music appeared bubbly and bright, while effects showed good power. Those elements offered positive accuracy and heft throughout the movie. Nothing here dazzled, but the track suited the film.

Only a handful of extras fill out the disc. Unwrapping Arthur Christmas runs 13 minutes, 27 seconds and includes comments from producer Peter Lord, director/writer Sarah Smith, producers Steve Pegram, Carla Shelley and David Sproxton, writer/co-executive producer Peter Baynham, visual effects supervisor Doug Ikeler, supervising animator Alan Hawkins, senior animation supervisor Alan Short, editor James Cooper, and actors Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Ashley Jensen, and Eva Longoria. "Unwrapping" looks at story/characters, cast and performers, visuals and editing. "Unwrapping" delivers a fluffy look at the production that's heavy on promotional hype and low on information.

Under Progression Reels, we see five clips that span a total of 13 minutes, 56 seconds. These show us concept art, character designs, storyboards, test material, rough animation and final footage to demonstrate how the movie went from planning to finished product. Unnamed narrators give us facts along the way, so this ends up as a solid collection of material.

Elf Recruitment Video goes for one minute, 11 seconds. It gives us a cute fake ad but doesn't amount to much.

The disc opens with ads for Hotel Transylvania, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, 12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue and The Smurfs. These also show up under Previews along with a clip for The Swan Princess Christmas. No trailer for Arthur Christmas come along for the ride.

Will Arthur Christmas become a holiday classic? Probably not. While it has some fun moments - and gets better as it goes - the project feels somewhat lackluster as a whole. The DVD provides pretty good picture and audio but skimps on supplements. Kids will probably enjoy this as part of the Christmas entertainment, but I can't give the film a strong recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.1666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
0 3:
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