At this time of year, there is already a danger of Christmas overload with music, adverts and shops going cheer-crazy. And then there's the obligatory festive film to contend with. However, this time it's in the more than capable hands of Aardman...
The folks at Aardman have long been people that, along with Pixar, have given delight to everyone who has watched any of their output - anything from them on a bad day is head and shoulders above others on top form. It now seems the small UK company has finally broken its bad spell with the big US cousins.
Straight out of the gate even before the opening credits, you know that they've cracked it - the letter to Santa from the little girl in Cornwall with all the questions concerning chimneys, timing and the exponential birth rate making all future present deliveries even harder - is the perfect mix of cute and crazy, laden with jokes for kids and adults alike. And that's before we've even seen exactly how all of the above is achieved through the aid of technology and an army of elves - think Monsters Inc. meets Mission: Impossible and you're halfway there.
Like their previous productions, there will be repeat viewing necessary if you wish to clock up all the nods and sight gags littered throughout the film - a The Wrong Trousers train track-laying homage, a Shaun The Sheep toy on the bedroom floor, a Stagecoach/Raiders Of The Lost Ark parody involving hanging off the back of a moving vehicle, to name but a few. And like past efforts, there are some sublimely strange moments to be had - the impromptu landing in Africa sees Arthur and co surrounded by lions and not even Attenborough would have thought to lullaby them with reindeer slippers to escape being eaten!
The British cast do a fine job with McAvoy the right side of youthful wonder and passion (but only just!) as Arthur and Broadbent and Nighy spot on as current Santa and GrandSanta. It does get a little "early Spielberg" with family issues (i.e. father and son problems) rising to the surface throughout the proceedings but then what family doesn't have the odd argument over the festive period? Even the Claus family does it seems.
With what feels like a genuine love of wanting to make a great movie and not just cash in on a Christmas film, Arthur Christmas is a magical rarity that, yet again, will be enjoyed (and loved) by all. More importantly, with its re-watch value, it's destined to become a modern classic along with The Muppet Christmas Carol for families and kids of all ages. Even if you don't do Xmas, this is a film you will enjoy, trust me on this. How could you not? The race is to get to Cornwall, not somewhere like New York! Fantastic!
UK release date: 11.11.11