A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Arthur Christmas is a heartwarming animated holiday adventure that's a fine pick for the entire family. One brief scene of a group of startled wild animals and another of an angry homeowner wielding a gun may frighten very young kids, and there are a few jokes targeting parents -- like when Grandsanta explains that "in the old days," he once gave a double whiskey to an elf. But otherwise this movie from the British animators behind Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit provides a good reminder of the holiday spirit, family unity, and being generous. Families that don't celebrate Christmas should know that the story doesn't have any religious overtones; the emphasis remains on Santa and his family.
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What's the story?
In ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) -- aka Malcolm "Father" Christmas -- is executing a state-of-the-art "gift drop" around the world, with his son and heir apparent, Steve (Hugh Laurie), running what he thinks is his father's final global delivery. With scores of elves acting like stealth gift ninjas, Santa returns to the North Pole on his spacecraft thinking it's "Mission Accomplished." But when the cleaning elves discover an undelivered gift, kindly younger son Arthur (James McAvoy) joins a covert rescue mission with his Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and gift-wrapping elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) to get the pink bicycle with training wheels to its rightful owner in Cornwall, England. Unfortunately for the easily scared Arthur, Grandsanta only knows how to lead an ancient sleigh with out-of-practice reindeer, so the trip is bumpier than anyone envisioned.
Is it any good?
This is one of those special family movies that's equally entertaining for adults and children. Aardman -- the English studio responsible for Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away -- returns to the big screen with another winning animated comedy in Arthur Christmas that combines brilliant visuals, a well-developed story, and clever humor that's sophisticated but not completely aimed at parents. McAvoy is adorable as the voice of Arthur, who's so genuinely giving and caught up in his father's magical gift-giving that he's willing to risk everything to make sure one little girl doesn't wake up Christmas morning and think Santa doesn't care about her.
The relationship between Arthur and his Grandsanta is hilarious. Arthur is earnest and kind, while Grandsanta is as snarky as only a senior can be -- bitter because his son and grandson no longer think he's capable. As the two Christmas men and their stowaway elf trek around the globe with a decreasing number of able-bodied reindeer, the audience realizes that the trip itself is a gift for each member of the wacky trio. All three learn something about themselves and find the spirit of Christmas within to carry out their seemingly doomed adventure to reach Cornwall by Christmas morning. Like the Christmas clan, everyone could do with a reminder about the importance of family and selflessness each holiday season.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Arthur Christmas fits into the genre of holiday movies. How is this story different than other Santa-based movies? Is it confusing to see a movie about Santa's personal family in the North Pole?
What are the movie's messages about both family and the holidays? What do the characters learn over the course of the movie?
Some of the movie's jokes are aimed directly at adults; do you think too much of the humor is "grown up," or will kids enjoy it as well? Why do you think filmmakers might include jokes that will go over kids' head in movies that are made for them?
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