Normally, Sunday mornings are for having a lie-in and shouting at the kids not to come anywhere near our bedroom, but I was recently made an offer that even trumped a bacon butty and a cuddle with my Successful Other Half.
My lovely friend, Jo, who runs her fabulous family film site Movies4Kids had some spare tickets for the world’s first-ever showing of the sonn-to-be festive blockbuster, Arthur Christmas.
By beautiful serendipity, there are five of us in our family, and so off we toddled to the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square for a treat normally reserved for swanky media types (of which I was formerly one, until I was made redundant last year).
Was it worth the sacrifice of missing Something For The Weekend? Was it worth the stress of waiting in the rain for half an hour for a bus to show up? Was it worth the row I had with the bus driver on the way back who refused to move because he said another passenger had failed to pay his fare?
Well, judge for yourselves…
Here is my review of…ARTHUR CHRISTMAS
Have you ever wondered how Santa manages to deliver all those presents to more than 2 billion children all in the space of a few hours in one night?
It was something that used to keep me awake at night. It is something that has kept my curious Why-Dad-Why-Dad? middle son awake for most of Christmas Eve each year until I threatened him non-present Christmas Day unless he went to sleep.
I mean, Santa’s a fat fella, right? How does he climb down all those chimneys, especially when most homes are more likely to have gas-fired central heating nowadays? He doesn’t break in, surely? Wouldn’t he worry about being caught in the act by a baseball bat-wielding homeowner threatening to smash his Christmas lights out?
Even more of a conundrum is how he can circumnavigate the globe, covering millions of miles when you factor in every city, every town, every village, every road, every street, every avenue, with only an open-top sleigh and half a dozen galloping reindeer to get him there?
And what about all those letters that children send to Mr Claus at the North Pole? How on earth does he find time to read them all, let alone reply? Yes, we know he’s got his elves to help him out, but surely those elves are entitled to decent working conditions; surely they take holidays and the occasional day off sick?
Whoa, Dasher and Blitzen and all the rest of ‘em. Wait a Yuletide minute. The ELVES. It’s the elves, stoopid.
They’re not just little people with pointy ears: they are highly-trained, SAS-standard operatives, whose only mission in life is to make Christmas, Christmas.
And this is what Arthur Christmas is all about.
Every question you’ve ever asked about how the logistical miracle that is festive present-giving is pulled off is answered here. And what a Christmas miracle it is!
Buried deep beneath the North Pole, lies Santa’s command-and-control centre, a hi-tech bunker that would makes anything the American military has look like a bow and arrow. From here, the whole of Christmas is planned in precision detail. Like a nest of worker bees, every elf knows his or her job, like the genius geeks who put Man on the Moon.
Every child’s present wish is received and processed, then packed onto a vast spaceship that can travel at tens of thousands of miles an hour. The ship visits every Christian (I presume) neighbourhood in the world, and mobilises a S.E.S (Special Elf Squadron) to get the presents to their rightful recipients, via open windows, pick-locked doors and, yes, even chimneys.
The whole operation is controlled by Santa’s eldest son, Steve Christmas, a super-efficient robot of a man, whose only concern is To Get-In, Get-Out and uses every feasible modern gadget to Get The Job Done.
Steve is the heir apparent to his soon-to-retire 70-year-old dad, the latest in a long line of Father Christmases dating back hundreds of years. But now the incumbent Santa is nothing more than a fat bearded figurehead. Steve can smell his inheritance – and he wants it badly.
For Steve, the most important people in the Christmas story – our children – are just numbers to be processed and ticked off.
Not so his younger brother, Arthur. Young Arthur is the Dweeb of the family, full of boyish, wide-eyed innocence who still wears a bright green Christmas jumper and who worships his father as the real deal.
For him, the message of Christmas is simple: every child is special; their happiness on Christmas morning is the only thing that matters.
Arthur’s job is to read and reply to every letter, and one letter has touched him in a special way. It’s from a little girl in Cornwall who asks all the questions we’ve asked ourselves in our childhoods, and our children ask today: how can Christmas happen? And the real biggie: does Santa really exist?
Arthur believes in the spirit of Christmas more than kiddies themselves. Steve, meanwhile, prides himself on stats and results. He measures success by percentages of delivery, not by the joy those deliveries bring to each child.
And so when the little Cornish girl’s present get accidentally left behind, Steve’s focus is on the ratio of all those billions of presents that actually made it to their destination. It doesn’t matter that one little girl would wake up on Christmas morning without a present from Santa: she’ll get over it.
Arthur’s view is different. One unhappy child is an unhappy child too many, so he teams up with his brilliant and hilarious Grandpa Christmas to dust off the old wooden sleigh, bring a fleet of reindeers out of retirement and try to travel the 2,500 miles to Cornwall before the little girl wakes up.
At this point, I was asking myself: ‘So how did they make Christmas happen before the digital space age? How did they get those reindeer to fly so fast?’
Simple: magic dust harvested from the Aurora Borealis.
What follows is the equivalent of a Gumball Rally on a sleigh. Thrills, spills, will-they, won’t they make it on time, whilst exploring the themes of Sibling Rivalry, Modern vs Old, Commercialism vs The True Meaning of Christmas.
The film is brilliant, managing to pull off that trick forged in the creative fires of Pixar of being very funny for adults and super-cute for kids. Grandpa Christmas is a super comic creation; Steve is a rod—up-his backside bureaucrat; Father Christmas is a doddery past-his-best old man (real name: Malcolm) supported and loved by his strong and calm wife, Margaret.
But the show-stealers are undoubtedly the elves, for my kids at least, who were buzzing as we left the cinema. An hour later, we were in the playground, where my middle son had appointed himself Chief Elf, ordering his older sister and younger brother to abseil, sneak and deliver ‘those presents to those children.’
Does Santa REALLY exist? Not Arth(ur)! Just ask my kids.