Ankur Pathak feels that Arthur Christmas is a clear winner with its meticulous narrative and animation.
Solving the mystery of how Santa Claus manages to deliver presents to eager kids, Arthur Christmas offers delightful, fantastical explanations aiding itself with sophisticated technology, a neat dose of British wit, and an undeniably talented cast of voice-over artists.
Screenwriters Peter Baynham (he has co-written Borat) and Sarah Smith (also director) introduce us to the dysfunctional family of the Clauses' residing in their enormous bastion back in the North-Pole that consists of a contentious Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy), whose legacy has been carried ineptly by current Santa -- Malcom (Jim Broadbent).
His lovable dyed-in-the-wool wife Margaret is always a peaceful presence trying ever so hard for all Clauses' to be together at the dinner table. Which brings us to the sons' -- bickering brothers Steve (Hugh Laurie) and Arthur (James McAvoy) -- the former being a resourceful heir-apparent while the latter, a humble subordinate.
An army of elves specialising in multiple departments ensure the presents are delivered in a martial art routine, with an enviable success rate. However when one little girl of an English hamlet becomes the only child to have not received the pink bike she asked for, it becomes an unintentional clash of moralities between Arthur and Steve. While the former is sentimentally vulnerable, Steve says it loud and clear, "Christmas is no time for emotion".
So Grand-Santa jumps on his vintage sleigh armed with Arthur on the side to make that one last delivery.
Among other elements in the refreshing story, it is the innocence it exudes that makes Arthur Christmas such an enthusiastic, sweet watch.
The entire technical upgrade right up till the Clauses' dynasty is an inventive welcome (they work with GPS-satellites, guns that separate 'good' and 'bad' chaps et al).
Although advertised as a Christmas flick with children as the target audience, the film quite wonderfully tackles routine family conflicts -- right from ego-clashes to superficial niceties. From this perspective, the film is a telling account of reality, overflowing with surprisingly well-intertwined English humor.
As for the rest, father Santa is unsurprisingly ham-fisted and wifey Margaret not much than curious, while Steve is arrogantly indifferent and unwilling to co-operate.
So for a sweater-clad Arthur it ends up as a lonely battle and there are times when he is confounded with his own intentions and pretends apathy, but inspiration comes from unlikely quarters in the form of over-enthusiastic elf Bryony. She wraps up a lioness when the trio wanders in African jungles, while at the same time, harbors ambitions to package the moon. It's a hilariousl character rendered with relevant lines, and Scottish actress Ashley Jensen is convincing as this elf's voice.
The snow-capped visuals are occasionally contrasted with misty-brown desert sand is beautiful.
Featuring tech-savvy interpretation of Good Old Nicholas, a sleigh that camouflages as a flying train, a clan of adorable, super-efficient elves as delivery experts, Arthur Christmas is a breezy and emotionally robust delight.
It is a film made with a meticulously crafted story-board and rendered with animation that revitalizes an over-crowded technique.
The film could've been an easy front-runner for accolades from the Academy and the Globes, had it not been for a Johnny Depp-voiced chameleon that marveled in a Western, tip-toeing right up to the chimney.