Arthur Christmas ★★

Further proof that if you stick ‘Christmas’ in the title you can sell any old crap and the audience will be happy to watch it. Arthur Christmas is a charmless, frequently annoying and always tedious animated film for the whole sorry family. The titular Arthur, son of Santa and brother to overachieving Steve, is clumsy and a worrier but full of the spirit of Christmas (although spirit here seems to be a byword for screaming little twat). When Santa accidentally misses a young girl from the present drop-off it is up to Arthur, his senile Grandsanta and a geriatric reindeer to save the festive day.

Now call me a Grinch or Scrooge but I really didn’t enjoy this film. It starts reasonably enough with a military-like operation undertaken by the elves to get all the presents under the trees in time for the children to open them on Christmas morning. This sequence is full of nice little details, solid visual gags and possesses a great sense of momentum. It is only a shame that the rest of the film never even comes close to these opening ten minutes. Instead it descends into a repetitive country-hopping tour of the world as the makeshift team attempt to get the present to its rightful owner.

Beyond the start I don’t remember laughing once thanks to a procession of obvious jokes and downright irritating characters. Some of the smaller characters are okay but Arthur himself is a quite horrible protagonist. He is a whiny shit of a man, voiced with shrill exuberance by James McAvoy who I hope never lends his ‘vocal talents’ to an animated film ever again. The animation is pretty slick, although rarely gobsmackingly so, but I found much of the character design to be rather ugly. Even though it features all the hallmarks of an Aardman feature in its art direction it is funny how soulless it can be when not created in clay.

I’m sticking this one on the naughty list.

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