I don’t particularly like “Christmas Movies” unless they are able to adequately set themselves apart from the hoards of films that pollute this odd sub-genre. I don’t necessarily hate Christmas movies, some I actually love, but the overwhelming majority, particularly in the last 10-20 years can simply be clumped together in my memory as one big blob of movie lore that continues to accumulate mass year after year. For this reason I had low expectations for Arthur Christmas. Perhaps these low expectations aided in my enjoyment of the movie, but more I think it was due to a superb voice cast, a fun an interesting story, relatable characters that mixed well with the normally dismal attempt at cinematic holiday humor.
We’re introduced to our reluctant hero in the introduction of the Movie. Arthur, Santa’s younger son, works in the letter writing department of the North Pole. He reads and responds all day every day to children that write letters to his father. Decked from head to foot in novelty Christmas apparel, it becomes extremely apparent that Arthur loves his job, he displays enthusiasm and dedication to a job that almost anyone else would find abysmal. Despite being surrounded by Christmas themed everything all year round, he maintains a childlike sense of wonder, something that most of his family has lost after years of perfecting the “business” of delivering presents with militaristic precision. The story follows Arthur and his quest to get a present that was missed to a little girl before sunrise.
The relationship between the members of the “Claus” family are plagued by emotions and complications shared by most of the world. So, while they’re an extraordinary family, they are a group of people that we, as the audience, can easily relate to. Relatable characters in Christmas movies has become increasingly rare as exaggerated antics and cliches of the Christmas season are often overused. Santa is an aging man on the cusp of retirement, too afraid to let go of a career that has defined him. In his refusal to step down his older son Steve becomes increasingly frustrated that he can not take the position of “Santa” yet, a fact that is fueled due to his hard work and revolutionizing of the Christmas delivery system. The Grandfather figure is an old, withered rendition of his Santa, he lives in the past and talks about his days relying on reindeer and an ancient sleigh to deliver presents instead of the new spaceship like method of transportation. Then there is Arthur, selfless and joyful, always excited and optimistic in increasingly pessimistic circumstances. Three generations of the Santa Claus family all with their unique struggles.
The film is genuinely heart warming. All the characters wrestle with selfishness and are forced to face obstacles ranging from annoying to life threatening. The humor is fresh and funny and the animation works perfectly with the story. Having expected much less, I was pleasantly surprised that I found this to be one of the most enjoyable Christmas movies in recent memory.