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Arthur Christmas

Fabulous, funny holiday movie about the Christmas spirit.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn about the English tradition of "Father Christmas" and will briefly see how Christmas is celebrated around the world when Arthur and Grandsanta make their way to England in search of one little girl.

Positive messages

Arthur's story is an example of how one person can really make a difference and why families should work together. Arthur and Bryony also exemplify rising to the occasion and overcoming fears. Christmas, the movie suggests, is about the joy of feeling of loved and appreciated. There's also a worthwhile message about finding a balance between technology and tradition, especially during the holidays.

Positive role models

Arthur is a wonderful example of someone who rises to the occasion to fight for what he believes in, overcome his fears, and help others. He's generous and kind and believes every child deserves to feel special and loved for Christmas. Grandsanta starts out acting selfishly but redeems himself toward the end of the movie, as do the other adult characters.

Violence & scariness

An encounter with wild animals in Africa could frighten younger viewers; the lions look especially ready to pounce. A dog is another formidable obstacle to delivering a gift. In one scene, a homeowner gets out of his house and fires a gun at Arthur, Grandsanta, and Bryony, mistaking them for aliens; in another, missiles are fired at Grandsanta's sleigh, and it bursts into flames. Some of the sleigh rides themselves are a little perilous, especially when the police are involved, and there's a fair bit of military flavor to some of the goings-on. Physical comedy gags include clumsy Arthur always falling and tripping into things, being afraid of heights, and otherwise wreaking havoc on the elves' world.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable

The word "hell" is said. Grandsanta pokes fun at this son, Father Christmas, by using some clever nicknames.


Steve's Santa suit is designed by Versace; Google Earth is mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Grandsanta looks tipsy and recalls when he gave an elf a "double whiskey" to forget about something. There's also a scene in his room where viewers see him near lots of alcohol bottles, but he's never seen drinking.

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.

What's the story?

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?


ARTHUR CHRISTMAS 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 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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 23, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:November 6, 2012
Cast:Bill Nighy, Hugh Laurie, James McAvoy
Director:Sarah Smith
Studio:Sony Pictures Animation
Genre:Family and Kids
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some mild rude humor

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Adult Written byDr3w November 23, 2011

A Christmas Movie For Cynics

"Arthur Christmas was written with the cynic in mind. It's for kids who can't quite figure out how Santa delivers presents in Toledo and Tokyo and Timbuktu all in one night. It's for kids who've seen that even the supposed best of adults don't always act admirably. It's for kids for whom this "magical" time of year sometimes feels a little less than. It tells these children that even if things aren't perfect, that even after your mom and aunt get into a squabble during Monopoly or Dad eats Santa's Christmas cookies, there's still something special about the season. That specialness is embodied, of course, by Arthur Christmas—a goofy, awkward, kid-like guy who answers Santa's letters for him. He knows the elves make fun of him. He knows he'll never be as cool or efficient as his big brother. On some level, he knows he's a disappointment to his father. And yet he puts all that aside because he believes in Santa's true goodness. It's Arthur's awe-filled optimism—and, frankly, sense of forgiveness—that carries this movie. Arthur doesn't spend much time worrying about what his father thinks of him. As long as Santa cares for the children, that's all Arthur needs. When Santa lets Arthur down, though, it's still a brutal blow. Indeed, our hero almost gives up on his quest to "save Christmas" for the little giftless girl. But then he has an epiphany: It's not about Santa the man, but about Santa the ideal. Santa is bigger than any one fallible father can be. And as long as that ideal remains true and pure, the gift-giving spirit of Christmas survives. It's a salient message for us to teach to our children, I think, who have observed moral or spiritual leaders stumble and fall. Our faith and our integrity should never be pinned to people, but rather to principles. Neither, of course, should Christmas be pinned to Santa. But you already knew that." from plugged in . com
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bybrown_eyed_girl February 1, 2012

Ever wonder how Santa does it? Here's your chance to find out!

A hilarious, heart warming story about a bumbling brother who becomes a reluctant hero. The second the lights came up in the theater, my 10 year old turned to me and said "We have to buy that on DVD!" I can see this becoming an annual tradition for our family right up there with The Grinch and Charlie Brown. Although the father, grandfather, and older brother are negative role models through most of the movie, in the end they pull together and do the right thing. Some mean language and insinuation of drinking but most of the language is tame. The grandfather's reindeer sidekick is hilarious. Very young kids might be scared by some of the tense, suspenseful chase scenes but on the whole the movie is a delightful twist on the traditional Santa Claus myth.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written byRichard Addlesee December 9, 2011

The true meaning of Christmas

I wish I was a kid again, Arthur Christmas really shows us what the true meaning of Christmas is, going the extra mile for each other regardless of the effort :)
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models