Arthur Christmas (Rated PG-13)  3 Stars12-21-11-movie.jpg

Arthur Chrismas (97 minutes), how can I watch you if I claw out my own eyes to avoid watching Justin Beiber “dance” in a music video? And won’t it be hard to hear the witty repartee if I have punctured my own ear drums in an effort to avoid his “singing?” For a Christmas movie, you’re awfully mean spir-ited. Minus one star for making me live through that. As for the rest of you, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Arrive about 20 minutes late, and you can avoid some pain.

So, James McAvoy continues his tradition of being the cut-est kid in the room without having any actual talent by doing a little Aardman entertainment flick.That is actually fine, because Aardman makes Wallace and Gromit, and McAvoy is getting a free pass from me because he is doing the X-Men sequel.

Despite my overall Grinchiness when it comes to Christmas movies (except for movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night, and The Night the Reindeer Died), I am willing to admit this is pretty freaking cute. It did make me laugh, and if you’re paying attention, you can even spot Shaun the Sheep!

Interestingly, director and co-writer Sarah Smith is a bit of a newbie, and will bear some watching. For such a male-oriented film, she manages to tell a story that is not only innovative, but also easily relatable.

The film updates the legend of Santa Claus with the idea that Santa is a monar-chist, and each Santa does 70 “missions” before retiring to sit by the fire with his favorite flea-bit reindeer.The current Santa (Jim Broadbent) is on his final mis-sion, while Mrs. Santa (Imelda Staunton) learns survival skills while also filling the story’s quota of Mom stereotypes. Grand-Santa (Bill Nighy) is a bit grumpy since retirement, and his grandsons Steve (Hugh Laurie) and Arthur (McAvoy) are involved in the family business.

For Arthur, this involves wearing really and truly awesome goggly-eyed light up reindeer slippers while charging around knocking over elves like they were bowling pins. For Steve, this apparently involves bringing a military industrial complex-like technology to bear on the trouble of delivering gifts over a limited time-frame to an exponentially increasing population of children. Also, elves are ninjas.

After a successful Christmas, an elf discovers that a gift remains undelivered.Bryony the elf (Ashley Jensen, who I to-tally failed to recognize as Maggie from The Extras) tries to convince the Santa’s that the gift must be delivered, and fails.Hijinks ensue as Arthur and Grand-Santa band together with his wooden sleigh and the great-grandchildren of his old rein-deer can take the present where it needs to be.

They head out into the night, and one by one the reindeer suffer horrible fates.It is a bit gruesome, but (Spoiler Alert!) it turns out that Santa’s reindeer have a built in radar and are pretty hard to kill. Meanwhile, Arthur goes through several stages of character development, which bring us into the finale.

There are some truly hysterical scenes mixed in with the more obvious gags, including a mass breakdown amongst the elves that leads to them to begin using the Meltdown button to blast the North Pole off the face of the Earth because they are left without direction for a few hours. Which is totally what elves would do.

Overall, this a decent holiday flick that manages to tell a sweet story without being too smaltzy.While it does drag on a bit and is drenched in testosterone, at least it’s not another Christmas Carol knockoff.

Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.

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