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Arthur Christmas (3D)


Stars: Voices: James McAvoy, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie, Ashley Jensen, Imelda Staunton, Ramona Marquez, Andy Serkis, Joan Cusack, Robbie Coltrane, Dominic West, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jane Horrocks, Michael Palin, Rhys Darby, Miggie Donahoe, Justin Bieber

Director: Sarah Smith

Another winner from Wallace and Gromit's Aardman stable, incredibly detailed and almost too busy (it takes a while to get used to the freneticism), but dazzlingly bright, heart-warming, funny and very much all of a piece.

At the North Pole, it's all systems go on Christmas Eve, as Santa's oldest son Steve (Laurie) supervises thousands of elves in a worldwide operation, with Santa's red spaceship setting out to deliver millions of presents to children.

Ageing Santa (Broadbent), alias Malcolm Christmas, is pretty much a (rather bewildered) figurehead, while younger son Arthur (McAvoy), a blundering bungler, is relegated to reading all the kids' letters to Father Christmas. He's particularly taken by one from Gwen (Outnumbered's Marquez) in Cornwall, who wants a glitzy pink bicycle.

Everything goes like clockwork, apart from one glitch, when Santa is nearly seen and heard by a 'waker', only his head preventing an 'Old MacDonald's Farm' toy from working ('risk of mooing' warms the North Pole computer, '98 per cent.'

But, just as the exhausted elves launch into shutdown mode, the unthinkable occurs: an undelivered present is discovered, And it's Gwen's bike.

Steve insists that one doesn't matter, but Arthur is determined to deliver it, and finds an unexpected ally in long-retired GrandSanta (a cackling Nighy), who gets his old sled, Eve, and eight reindeer (he can't remember all their names) out of mothballs and sets out with Arthur, a stowaway wrapping elf (Jensen) and a retired reindeer on an epic trip through the skies towards Cornwall. Accidental stops in Africa and Mexico soon make this a race against time.

It all sags a bit in the middle, but the pace is generally frantic, the animation brings real personality to the characters, and the incidental jokes are too numerous to keep track of.

David Quinlan

UK 2011. UK Distributor: Sony (Aardman). Colour by deluxe.
96 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Nov 2011