"Arthur Christmas" an Imaginative Take on Santa's Old Tale

The animated, 3-D Arthur Christmas introduces three generations of St. Nick's family: Weedy retired Grandsanta (voiced by Bill Nighy, hogging the good lines), the obliviously ineffectual Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent), and his two sons, the North Pole's ultracompetent control-room manager and Santa's expected successor, Steve (Hugh Laurie), and his brother, Arthur (James McAvoy), a well-meaning simp who alone doesn't have an ego-based agenda. Steve keeps the high-tech Christmas operation running — gifts are delivered by commando elves operating from a camouflaged mothership — but when one present goes accidentally undelivered, Arthur and Grandsanta set off on a mission in a reindeer-hauled sleigh run on antigravity magic dust. The script, by director Sarah Smith and Peter Baynham, has copious laughs and some marvelous bits of imagination, like a sprinkling of dust unleashed over the Serengeti that turns the sky into a constellation of jungle animals. Really, Arthur is a lovely bit of work, only marred by the completely cynical, cranked-out Justin Bieber video of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" tacked on the front.


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