After falling out with Hollywood heavyweight Dreamworks over its first computer-animated feature Flushed Away, British studio Aardman has now partnered with Sony Pictures for this festive family comedy. It seems to have let them retain their trademark British humour and love of eccentric characters.
Arthur Christmas is probably as original a film as we can hope to see in the Christmas genre. While the dysfunctional family storyline is a little similar to Vince Vaughan's Fred Claus, it is refreshing to not have yet another must-save-Christmas plot.
Full of imaginative ideas, this is the holiday film for kids who ask too many questions of Santa. Like: How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?", and "why can't I see his place at the North Pole on Google Earth?" All the answers lie within and they're pretty cool answers too, particularly if you're under 10.
Christmas is a Claus family business these days and thanks to the military style operation run by Santa's eldest, Steve (Laurie), Christmas Eve goes as planned - until an elf finds a present that's been accidentally missed. Steve convinces his rather doddery father (Broadbent) there's no way the present can be delivered in time, but his younger brother, the accident-prone and optimistic Arthur (McAvoy), has other ideas.
Accompanied by his naughty Grandsanta (Nighy) and Bryony (Ashley Jensen), a perky elf from the wrapping division, they're off on a mission to make sure no child misses out on the Santa experience at Christmas.
There's plenty of action and slapstick silliness, which is beautifully rendered in sharp computer animation. Not only are the main characters perfectly cast and brought to life by an impressive list of British voice talent, but they're joined by an equally talented cast of erratic elves voiced by Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Jane Horrocks and Kiwi Rhys Darby.
Sentimentality is unavoidable as this rollicking adventure comes to an end, but it doesn't force-feed a Christmas message.
Cast: Bill Nighy, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie
Director: Sarah Smith
Running Time: 97 mins
Verdict: Plenty of Yuletide fun and wonderment for, yes, all the family