ďDear Gwen! Thank you for your Letter and What a Brilliant Picture! Your request for a Pink Twinkle Bike will be passed onto Santa! Yes! Do believe in Santa! He is real! He is the greatest man ever! And he can get around the world to every child without a single reindeer getting roasted alive! I assure you, by the time the sun rises on Christmas Morning, he will surely get to you using his specialÖ MAGIC!Ē
- Arthur Christmas
Hereís what I wrote about this one in my original theatrical review:
ďLeave it to the folks at Aardman, the minds behind all those wonderful ďWallace & GromitĒ adventures and Chicken Run, to take the tired Christmas-themed subgenre of family films and find a way to breathe some invigorating life into it. Their Arthur Christmas is easily one the yearís most invigorating surprises, and I almost canít believe just how much start to finish I found myself enjoying it. Original and inspired, this joyful animated frolic is seriously entertaining, audiences of all ages sure to eat up its heartwarming Yule-tied message of family, resilience and togetherness thatís as touching as it is wonderful.
Arthur (James McAvoy) is the youngest son of the current Santa Clause (Jim Broadbent), happily working in the letter office answering all of the mail sent in from children around the globe. His older brother Steve (Hugh Laurie), however, is the one truly running the ship, making Christmastime present delivery a clockwork, almost military-like exercise thatís as efficient as it is invisible. Sure the elderly GrandSanta (Bill Nighy) makes a constant fuss about how things were done in his day with reindeer and sleighs and the like but no one really takes that much notice, the art of making children happy for the holidays an adventure each and every elf working at the North Pole can be merrily proud of.
But this year, on the eve when it was widely believed Santa would retire and bestow his title to Steve, a child has been missed. A single little girl, living in England, eagerly anticipating the pretty pink bicycle she is sure is going to come her way. Only Arthur realizes just how much a disaster this is, knows what it means if even a single child goes unhappy at Christmas. With GrandSanta, an aging reindeer and chipper, gift wrapping extraordinaire elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) at his side, this young man will set out to do the impossible, and in doing so prove to the elves, the North Pole and, most importantly, to his family just what it is Christmas and the holidays are truly all about.
Peter Baynham (Borat) and director Sarah Smithís screenplay is a mixture of inspiration and laughs that moves at the speed of a light right from the very start. It sets up its cast of characters with beautiful simplicity, allowing the audience to know just the kind of people the Clauses are and exactly what will be the best for the whole lot of them in order for this family to ultimately come together as one. These are fully formed individuals who are all instantly recognizable, the filmmakers realizing that a family flick of this sort doesnít necessarily need a human villain when apathy and complacency rear their ugly heads.
But the movie is also filled with tons of idiosyncratic details that are downright inspired; little visual asides, in-jokes and bits of character that both propel the story forward and allow for delicately refined chuckles throughout. Aardman is working at an almost Pixar-like level mixing things up in a way that works for young and old alike. Children will find much to revel in but then so will adults, the film clicking on multiple levels allowing for each member of the audience to find something distinctly personal to delight in.
There arenít a lot of surprises, thatís true, and it isnít like the outcome of this adventure is ever in doubt, but ultimately this isnít a problem in any sense of the word. Whether cascading through the deserts of Africa, evading dangers unleashed by NORAD or stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean Arthurís quest propels itself forward with a captivating efficiency thatís a true delight. Arthur Christmas is the kind of animated family miracle the cinema could definitely use more of, and as early holiday presents are concerned hereís one I wouldnít mind opening for a second time relatively soon.Ē
Arthur Christmas is better than I originally gave it credit for being back in November of 2011. It holds up remarkably well, the film showcasing an amount of emotional depth and nuance that struck me a tiny bit by surprise this time around. This movie moved me, got me to shed a few tears and put me right in the thick of the holiday spirit (and itís still October!), a fact I do not take even slightly for granted. This movie is pretty darn great, and gosh darn it if I can actually see it becoming something of a minor perennial Christmas classic as the years go by.
Arthur Christmas is presented on a dual-layer 50GB 3DBlu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer. It is also presented on a standard 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.85:1/1080p transfer.
These two discs are top of the line, state of the art and close to absolute perfection. If you want a reference disc to show off your 3D television and 3D Blu-ray player, this is the disc for you. Along with Disneyís Brave (also releasing in November), Arthur Christmas looks close to stunning in 3D at home, this statement coming from someone who doesnít particularly care for the format and would rather see this annoying technological trend come to an end.
If anything, the 2D Blu-ray looks even better. Colors are so rich, so textured, so multifaceted and nuanced the theatrical viewing experience was duplicated in my home to a much fuller and richer extent than I ever could have anticipated. From a technical perspective I am in awe as far as this release is concerned, Sony outdoing themselves in any and all ways imaginable.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and features optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include (and are available on both the 3D and 2D Blu-ray discs):
∑ Un-Wrapping Arthur Christmas (13:26)
∑ Progression Reels (13:51)
∑ Elf Recruitment Video (1:03)
For a movie this good, this lack of extras is hugely disappointing. Not that the making-of featurette is bad (itís very pleasant, featuring interview snippets with the majority of the cast and crew) or the progression reels arenít interesting, theyíre both quite wonderful, itís just that the lack of anything even remotely substantive almost canít help but be annoying.
This movie is good, very, very good, and it deserved more. More interviews with the crew at Aardman. More with director Sarah Smith. More with writer Peter Baynham. Just plain more. Sorry if saying this makes me sound like something of a Grinch (or, at the very least, an overly verbose Veruca Salt) but the extras presented here just arenít good enough, and I for one am extremely disappointed Sony didnít give this release the behind-the-scenes attention it so richly deserved.
That said, the barely one minute Elf Recruitment Video is a total hoot. Make sure you check it out.
Lack of special features aside, Sonyís Blu-ray presentation (both 2D and 3D) of Aardmanís Arthur Christmas is spectacular. The movie gets better and better with each viewing, and as such should become part of every familyís holiday playlist as soon as possible.