Sunday, December 18, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Movies, Day 18: How Santa Makes it All Happen

Today was a pretty good and productive day.  I left around 8:15 to make sure I made it to the church on time...oh wow, didn't plan that pun.  Seriously though, I had to make sure I was at the Methodist church by 8:30 so we could be ready to perform our Christmas cantata there...and then again at my church at 10:45 to do it again there.  Thus ended my last comittment before Christmas, and so I celebrated by going to a movie.  Then afterward I finally bought my grandmother's gift and concluded my shopping season.  But back to the movie...there are several that I've been meaning to see for quite a while and today I finally got a chance to see a film I'd been putting off for several weekends.  It was animated by the same studio who produced the Wallace and Gromit claytoons and, lucky for me, it was a Christmas movie too.  I think this is actually the first time that I've posted a newly released film in my lineup, so this is kinda cool for me.  Anyhoo, have you ever wondered how Santa gets all of his work done?  I mean, many films have explained it away by citing magical reasons, but even for the most believing of audience members has a bit of a problem with this logic leap...thus giving us part of what makes today's movie a fantastic experience.  However, let's not get ahead of ourselves...we need to summarize first.  So let's hop over to the North Pole and visit Arthur Christmas.

It is December 24th, 2011 and Santa is putting the finishing touches on this year's mission.  However, it is not just Santa who works to make Christmas happen for every kid in the world, it is also his army of highly trained and specialized elves who come along for the ride in the S-1, a flying spaceship-like craft that hovers over the Earth with a reflective stealth surface that makes it look like the sky.  The S-1 positions itself over cities and the elves and Santa drop down and drop presents in homes across the city in a mass invasion that takes only minutes to complete.  The whole operation, however, is not run by Santa but by Santa's heavily organized and intelligent son Steve, who hopes to become the new Santa at the end of this Christmas.  Also in the family is Grand-Santa, the current Santa's father who thinks things should be done the old-fashioned way with a sled, reindeer, and going down the chimney.  And then there is Arthur, who is something of a spaz and a klutz who works in Letters and no one expects much of.  Arthur, however, seems to be the only one in the family who thinks about the children as evidenced by his careful replies to children who write to Santa Claus.  So when a present is not delivered and it looks as though one child will be left behind this Christmas, it is Arthur who decides that something should be done to prevent this travesty from happening.  So while Steve ignores the problem as an expected margin of error and Santa goes to bed in order to ignore the problem, Arthur, Grand-Santa, and a wrapping elf named Bryony head off in the outdated sleigh to deliver the gift.  Will Arthur succeed or will this end up exposing the existence of Santa and destroying Christmas?

This was a film that I really wasn't looking forward to at all from the teasers, which just seemed annoying and lacked the wit usually associated with Aardman Productions.  However, when it began raking in the positive reviews at Thanksgiving, my interest was piqued.  As is often the case, the trailers were not representative of the finished product.  I was enchanted by this tale of a Christmas that was in danger of being ruined for one little girl and by it's characters, particularly Arthur and Bryony who were delightfully positive and yet adorably spastic.  I also enjoyed their portrayal of Santa and his family.  In most stories about Santa, regardless of whether or not he is the protagonist or a secondary character, he is portrayed as perfect and without faults...but here the real Santa, his top son next in line, and his retired father are all portrayed as selfish and flawed which makes their individual journeys so unique and also keeps us emotionally invested.  It ends up making the whole film more complex and fun to watch as a result.  I actually found myself talking back to the film due to the revelations of the plot and interactions between the characters because I was so invested.  It really was a fantastic experience and I look forward to see it again next Christmas (as I intend to buy it and put it in my regular rotation) and I recommend that all of you go and see it before it leaves theaters this holiday season.  Take your family, it's worth it.

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