Santa Claus may very well be the face of Christmas. I know I know, some would argue that he can't really be anything in the grand scheme of things because he doesn't exist. But how do we really know that? How do we know that Santa isn't real? Has there been conclusive evidence provided of his non-existence? Sure, satellite photos can show us that there's no workshop in the North Pole and science can tell us that reindeer don't fly but honestly, don't you think that if an immortal man with magical powers existed that he couldn't conceal his home from surveillance or make reindeer soar across the sky? I don't think so. So who's to say that those of us who don't believe simply are left presentless because we choose to not believe? I cannot say one way or another, but I can infer. However, when was it that we all decided to stop believing? Was it because Santa never showed himself to us? Was it due to unmasking a fake Santa at a mall? Was it due to allowing logic to determine that no man could ever travel across the globe and give presents to EVERY child in the world in one night? Or was it simply due to not getting the one gift that we decided would make or break our Christmas? I know for many of us, it is that last answer that hits home the hardest with most of us. Certainly it must mean that Santa doesn't exist if we didn't get our gift. Or perhaps Santa simply made a mistake...which is what today's film centers around. It is a touching and delightfully funny story that shows how important one missed present can be. Come along for an adventure of a lifetime as we follow the exploits of Arthur Christmas.
It's Christmas Eve and hundreds of elves are helming the command centre of Santa's mile-wide, ultra–high-tech sleigh, the S-1. Santa and the elves deliver presents to every child in the world using advanced equipment and military precision. These complex operations are micromanaged by Santa's oldest son Steve and his obsequious elfin assistant Peter (amongst thousands of more elves) at mission control underneath the North Pole, while Steve's clumsy and panophobic younger brother Arthur answers the letters to Santa. During a delivery operation, when a child wakes up and almost sees Santa, an elf back in the S-1 inadvertently presses a button, causing a present to fall off a conveyor and go unnoticed. Having completed his 70th mission, Santa is portrayed as far past his prime and whose role in field operations now is largely symbolic. Nonetheless, he is held in high esteem, and delivers a congratulatory speech to the enraptured elves. Much to Steve's frustration, who has long anticipated succeeding his father, Santa announces he looks forward to his 71st. During their family Christmas dinner, Arthur's suggestion for the family to play a board game degenerates into a petty quarrel between Santa and Steve, while Grand-Santa, bored by retirement, resentfully criticises their over-modernisation. Distraught, the various family members leave the dinner table. Meanwhile, an elf named Bryony finds the missed present—a wrapped bicycle that has yet to be delivered—and alerts Steve and his elf-assistant to the problem. Arthur is alarmed when he recognises the present as a gift for Gwen, a little girl to whom he had personally replied. Arthur alerts his father, who is at a loss as to how to handle the situation; Steve argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error whose correction can wait a few days. Grand-Santa, on the other hand, proposes delivering the gift using Evie, his old wooden sleigh, and the descendants of the original eight reindeer, forcefully whisking away a reluctant Arthur and a stowaway Bryony. They get lost, lose reindeer, and land in danger several times, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Through all this, Arthur eventually learns to his compounding disappointment that Grand-Santa's true motive is to fulfil his ego, that Steve refuses to help them out of petty resentment, and that his own father has gone to bed, apparently content. Arthur must now decide whether one present really is that important and if he can complete the mission with the best interest of the child rather than for anyone else's interest.
Arthur Christmas is a surprisingly mature and well-crafted story that deals with quite a few adult themes while still adhering to an animated film's sense of adventure and humor. The jokes come fast and furious in this too. I found myself chuckling many times and was completely caught up in the magic of the film from beginning to end. The design of the S-1 was also ingenious in that it made me believe that this was a believable way to explain how we never see Santa's sleigh. The characters are all very likable, even the ones who are meant to be antagonists, with Arthur leading the pack. His youthful innocence and devotion to the principles of being Santa really make him shine. Grand-Santa is also amusing in his angry-old-man mode. As far as the adult themes, the film has a lot to say about feeling obsolete due to age and how we often put our own petty interests before the interests of others...particularly when thinking of others is what is more important. This is something I think the film wishes us to guard against, not just during the holidays but during other times of the year as well. Above all things, however, this film made me believe in Santa again not just because it does such a good job explaining how magic and technology can work together to conceal his existence but also because it makes Santa into someone who is just as flawed and susceptible to flaws and shortcomings as anyone else. An imperfect being who delivers gifts to people to try to make them happy...that's something I can believe in.