Adapted from Words Like That S1 Ep. 5: “Christmas Movie Special + End of Year Story Updates," originally released December 19, 2023.
The next movie on our list came out in 2011 and was basically a flop. Arthur Christmas did well in the UK, okay-ish internationally, but crashed and burned in North America. It was reportedly produced on a $100 million dollar budget, before marketing costs, but only grossed $47 million over that, globally, in its theatrical run.
I didn’t go see it myself. Of course, I also didn’t have kids at the time—not that that necessarily ever stopped me from going to see an animated film as an adult, but the trailers didn’t look particularly interesting. This was also a picture from Sony, who has never been known for its animated offerings (although that seems to be changing in recent years with the likes of the Spider-Verse films). In other words, it wasn’t coming from Disney or Dreamworks, who seemed, at the time to be the only studios that could make decent animated flicks, at least some times. Consequently, I, and many others, skipped it. A year or two later when I watched it at home, however, I was blown away.
Arthur Christmas puts one of the most interesting, unique spins on the Santa Claus legend that I’ve seen. Instead of Santa being the original St. Nicholas who’s been alive for hundreds of years, Santa is a position passed down from father to son for generations. Therefore, we're presented with a multi-generational family of Clauses.
We have Grand Santa (voiced by the legendary Bill Nighy), who is super old, cantankerous, contemptuous of anything new, and growing senile in his old age.
We have the current Santa, performed by Jim Broadbent, who is--well, also pretty old. It’s time for him to retire, or probably a few years past time. He’s definitely lost a step and has outsourced all of his duties to his militant older son, Steven, voiced by Hugh Laurie. (Side note: House is one of my favorite series of all time.)
Steven is this “Christmas general,” who has militarized the elves into an army and directs Christmas deliveries from a stealth sky ship. He’s already Santa in practice, and he’s champing at the bit for his dad to retire so he can officially take on the moniker.
Then, there’s the title character, Arthur. Arthur is Santa’s younger son. He’s utterly incompetent with the mechanics of Christmas, but he’s also the only one in the family who still possesses the child-like joy and spirit of of the season.
So, with that setup, the film evolves into an adventure flick with Arthur racing to deliver, by dawn Christmas morning a single missed gift, just to prevent one child from having her faith shattered.
It’s brimming with jokes and heart and boasts solid 2010s animation that, because it isn’t Disney or Dreamworks, feels fresh and different. The voice cast is stacked, and, while it’s made for kids, it’s smart enough for parents to enjoy.
I give this one a 9/10 and recommend checking it out with the young'uns this Christmas.
Cole Powell is an award-winning singer/songwriter and Z-list YouTuber. Armed with degrees in computer technology and liberal arts and sciences, Powell seeks to pontificate his pitiful opinions to the masses through any means the internet allows.