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November 25, 2011

Arthur Christmas

ArthurChristmasIt sounds like a big deal when the folks at Aardman switch from their incomparable stop-motion animation of "Wallace & Gromit" and team up with Sony Pictures Animation to apply computer generated graphics to their storytelling. Yet the proof in the pudding of “Arthur Christmas” is a big let-down. Aardman’s fuzzy attempt at 3D animation, over a less-than-impressive script, suggests that the company should stick to what it does best. 

Debut director/co-writer Sarah Smith struggles to maintain an atmosphere of holiday generosity amid three generations of Santas who are at turns egotistical, lazy, filled with militaristic testosterone, and just plain geeky. Family dysfunction is the hook the narrative hangs its Santa hat on. Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) still wants the glory and the credit of being Santa even though he’s been long retired. Grandsanta goes to great lengths to get a photo of himself on his sleigh when the opportunity arises. Poppa Santa (Jim Broadbent) is ready to hand over the reins of his annual duty to his son Steve (Hugh Laurie), a muscle-bound Marine type who acts more like a schoolyard bully than the happy-go-lucky guy in a red suit dropping presents down chimneys. That leaves Arthur (James McAvoy), a genuinely sweet kid who loves everything about Christmas. Odd looking Christmas sweaters are his specialty. Steve does the Christmas deliveries with a giant spacecraft, but he skips one little girl who wants a bicycle. Arthur appropriately takes the matter seriously. With Grandsanta’s help the youngest member of the Claus family rousts the old team of reindeer and hooks them up the famous sleigh. Almost all of the reindeer get lost along the way. It’s just one of the dangling subplots the filmmakers lose track of in a disappointing Christmas movie that never quite comes together. There just isn’t enough Christmas cheer.

Rated R. 114 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)

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