It is not the dominion (or proper forum) of this newspaper space to venture opinions or information about the existence of God, or Santa Claus, or the logistical operations thereof. However, concerning the Santa factor, there are pressing questions that inevitably spring to the logical mind, and some of those questions are addressed in the opening scene of Arthur Christmas, a quirky British-American charmer of a Santa saga that deals with things Santa in the digital age. A true but inquisitive young believer in Cornwall, England, writes to the North Pole with the usual questions about gifts, but also asks questions such as, “Why can’t I find your home on Google Earth?” Out of the mouths of babes come the truly meaningful questions.
Yes, Virginia, there is at least one new Santa Claus movie worth watching this season. The sparklingly fun and inventively animated Arthur Christmas, bolstered by the thespian strengths of voices of Brits like James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, and Imelda Staunton, offers an entertaining speculation on the state-of-the-art operations in the GPS-challenged terrain of Claus Land. As a ripe subplot, an old-school, decommissioned Santa Claus stokes up his sleigh and fairy-dusted reindeer, old-school style, to finish off the job of supplying each boy and girl with a gift by sunup on Christmas morning. In the middle of the heartwarming fable is Arthur, savior of all that is good about Christmas.
Not to be confused with the lovable drunken lout made famous by Dudley Moore, or the lovable cartoon rodent, this Arthur is the sweeter, more innocent principal son of Santa, a kindly and jolly corpulent fellow who needs to retire. Arthur’s brother Steve, looking like Buzz Lightyear and with a similar inequality of brains and brawn (or at least heart and brawn), is the beefy, technologically obsessive and number-crunching manager of the vast and automated factory that is the modern North Pole, with its legions of elves and tight-shipped, well-oiled, and software-upgraded system.
Will the retired Santa and kind-hearted, lanky Arthur prevail in the overnight, globe-zooming mission to deliver the one last missing gift? Will Steve ascend to the throne of Santa-hood, when we know that Arthur is the man for the job? These and other questions, though not necessarily the stubborn ones about Santa’s life and work, keep the movie moving forward. But they also massage the holiday spirit enough to warrant a trip out of the house, to that old-fashioned place known as a movie theater. Paper or plastic? 3-D or 2-D? Your choice.