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“So what would you like to see?”, I asked my daughter. “What’s on?”, she replied.
I reeled off the list at the multiplex fully expecting her to pick ‘Alvin & the Chipmunks 3′, but secretly hoping that the one I really wanted to see might be acceptable. (My choice was Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ – which sounds as good as the book, which I reviewed here.)

She didn’t pick either of those, plumping for the latest creation from the wonderful Aardman stable – Arthur Christmas. A great compromise …

How can Father Christmas deliver everyone’s presents in one night?
What happens if you don’t have a chimney?

These are just two of the questions that every child asks and this fun film shows how it can be done.  The Christmas dynasty has been delivering the presents for hundreds of years.  The current Santa is getting old, and his oldest son Steve masterminds the operation, running things with ultra high-tech military precision from a huge control centre built under the North Pole. There’s no more need for a traditional sleigh, fairy dust and reindeer, instead the S1 spaceship (sled-shaped but straight out of Star Trek) warps around the world, with crack SWAT-like teams of elves delivering the majority of the the presents, leaving Santa as a figurehead who just makes a few symbolic deliveries.

It all goes like clockwork, until one child gets missed – Gasp! Horror!  Steve is unconcerned – his stats are wonderful. But for his younger brother Arthur, who is gawky and clumsy, and works in the letters department, this is unacceptable.  He vows to deliver the present, and together with Grandsanta and a stowaway elf called Bryony, they set out on Grandsanta’s mothballed sleigh for the character-building adventure of a … night-time to save the day.

It was a lovely film. It totally reinforced all the messages about Father Christmas, and that Christmas is for children, that technology isn’t everything and there’s a place for tradition.

It did get lost slightly (literally) in the middle, when Grandsanta took them to Africa with his old maps, but found its way again with ease, only for a silly UFO side-plot to get in the way during the last reel. These are minor quibbles though.

There were tons of in-jokes and references for grown-ups as you’d expect from Aardman, and the British cast of voices was top-notch.  The chameleon voiced James McAvoy was Arthur, Hugh Lawrie was a great Steve, the ever-wonderful Bill Nighy was a brilliant and crotchety Grandsanta, and then there’s Jim Broadbent – well I couldn’t pick anyone better to play Santa.

The whole looked great and the 3D had some good moments, and you left the cinema with a smile.  An ideal family Christmas movie. (7.5/10)

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