Saturday, December 24, 2011

Arthur Christmas (C+)

(I will attempt not to make any holiday related puns over this review, but there are no guarantees. Sincerely, David)

Due to surprisingly high temperatures, a severe lack of snow, my neighborhood's weird inability to put up the smallest form of decoration, and my admitted tardiness in watching any once-a-year T.V specials, this year seems to lack holiday spirit unlike any other. Over the last weekend, seven new movies were released, and not one contained any connection to any holiday; whether it be Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza, or Christmahanukwanza. To truly access my inner holiday spirit at the multiplex I had to look to a release from a couple weeks back, and the result is this sightly delayed review for (not New Years Eve) Aardman's futuristic CGI animated take on Christmas, Arthur Christmas.

Arthur Christmas was a curious wonder for me; Despite having a mostly remedial marketing campaign which bizarrely hid the involvement of Aardman studios (responsible for the brilliant Wallace and Gromit films for those who do not know) and instead showcased mediocre well worn holiday film tropes along with equally tiresome slapstick humor, the film opened to almost universal acclaim from both audiences and critics alike. Many called the film "the holiday children's movie of the season", a difficult feat considering it was released on the same week as The Muppets and Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Perhaps it was this deadly blend of previously cynical views and newly minted high expectations, but other than a throughly entertaining third act I was as grumpy as the Grinch when it came to this film.

The film begins with a fast paced frenetic and kinetically shot sequence showing the viewer how the magical process of present delivery has evolved over the years. Elves equipped with high-tech present delivery gear swoop in and out of homes while attached to thin wires, which are docked at a mile long spaceship like sleigh labeled the S1. Santa Claus himself only is able to assist for a few homes while the elves do a great majority of the work, and Santa's son, named Steve leads the whole operation in a control room akin to the Senate from the Star Wars prequels. These are the first of a series of creative ideas the film's writers generate, but while they seem interesting on paper fail to become compelling on screen. The film has the misguided desire to make the high-tech North Pole and the similarly high-tech operations which take place there seem like the highlight of the film, but what truly works is when the film slows down to look at the relationships of the dysfunctional Clauses themselves.

Slightly hinted at in the previous paragraph, the logic the film uses toward the seemingly invincible and never dying figure of Santa Claus is that "Santa" is only a position passed down throughout the Claus family. In the beginning of the film, it is assumed that the current Santa will pass the position to his son Steve after the newly finished Christmas, but when he does not, it leads way to an almost whimsical family struggle of which is rarely explored until the final thirty minutes, but probably the only reason for the film to be sought out. The holidays are a special time to spend with family, but if you decide to go to the theater with your family to find a good holiday treat Arthur Christmas should give you a satisfactory feeling that the holidays are here.

Grade: C+

Note: I saw the film in 2D, and it didn't seem like any of the film was "missing". 3D probably isn't necessary for this one.

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