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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Fantasy > Satire > Spoof > Holiday > Computer Animation > British > Arthur Christmas (2011/Sony Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D & DVD)

Arthur Christmas (2011/Sony Blu-ray 3D w/Blu-ray 2D & DVD)

 

3D Picture: B     2D Picture: B/C+     Sound: B/C+     Extras: C+     Film: B-

 

 

In a hideous glut of really bad, opportunistic, shallow and even cynical holiday product flooding the video market, most people who want Christmas video they can take seriously are more likely to reach for classic titles on Blu-ray (A Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas) than much that has been made in recent years, but Sarah Smith’s Arthur Christmas (2011, released a year later for the season on Blu-ray 3D, et al) is one of the rare exceptions,  An amusing, kind, child-friendly, upscale, classy comedy production, it manages to deal with the holiday better than any feature film I have seen in over 20 years.  It is also a British production.

 

Taking the premise of how Santa delivers so many presents by December 25, the nicely made computer animated production by Sony and Aardman imagines the answer in terms of clever representations of Globalism, Mass Marketing, advanced computer and cyber programs and throws in Action and Science Fiction clichés all over the place.  In this version of the world of The North Pole, Santa has had as many incarnations as Doctor Who, though a new person takes his place and namesake instead of being regenerated (this is not that wacky) but in their drive to keep the children of the world satisfied, things have become more mechanical than anyone there could have intended, elves, Santa family, etc., so certain personal warm aspects of the holiday are starting to become eroded.

 

Santa’s current son is Arthur Christmas (well voiced by James McAvoy) who has so much heart, it slows down his efficiency and has landed him up in the mail room, but happily so for him where he can tend to the very personal, private stories and ends of specific children in ways the previous Santa regimes used to.  With all this technologization, he is the sole survivor of the operation in its original form, it sole heir literally and spiritually.  As the massive operation (practically corporate on some level) about to run into trouble, Arthur may yet find his calling.

 

This is smartly written despite the sometimes obvious jokes and some of those will go over even adult heads as they are more often than expected British and historical in nature, yet that is the kind of extra layer that makes this more watchable than if it were another silly Hollywood production.  Outside of the 1951 A Christmas Carol (also on Blu-ray), there are too few British Christmas titles and only so few have taken hold.  I think this one has at least a chance at minor classic status just by being different and quitting while it is ahead at 97 minutes is just right.

 

Also a plus are the other voice actors including Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Imelda Stanton, Laura Linney, Michael Palin, Joan Cusack, Robbie Coltrane, Eva Longoria, Dominic West and Jane Horrocks among the wide array of great talent doing fun work here.  As a result, Arthur Christmas may seem oddly titled to some, but it is one of the best new holiday video treats under the worldwide home video tree and I hope it gets the larger audience it deserves because it has a fine balance of heart and soul with humor without being phony or predictable.  It is still for younger children for the most part, but the whole family can enjoy it without reservation.

 

 

The 1.85 X 1, 1080p full HD MVC-encoded 3-D – Full Resolution digital High Definition image on the Blu-ray 3D version has some depth and dimension that makes sense and emphasizes the globalization ideal, but it is not extraordinary 3D, yet is more than serviceable and makes watching just that much more engaging than the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition 2D Blu-ray image transfer that it is worth seeing in 3D just to get a little more out of what we see and experience.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version is not bad, but much softer than either Blu-ray with more limited color range, depth and detail.

 

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on both Blu-ray versions is a well-recorded, well mixed, well designed construction that enhances the fun, comedy, visuals and overall narrative.  Always warm and full, dialogue is not trapped in the center channel or is too much towards the front speakers and surrounds are creative and sometimes amusingly clever.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is decent, but on the weak side and give you only a limited idea of how good the soundmaster really is, so play the DTS-MA if you can.

 

Extras include Ultraviolet Copy, an Elf Recruitment Video, Progression Reels that show how all the characters were created and featurette Un-Wrapping Arthur Christmas (just over 12 minutes) about how this was all created with smart interviews and behind the scenes footage.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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