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Arthur Christmas: movie review

How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night? The charming English animation 'Arthur Christmas' has the answer.

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'Arthur Christmas' is fast-paced and funny, putting an original spin on an old story.

Aardman Animations/HONS/Sony Pictures/AP

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The English-based Aardman animation studio – the folks who brought us those marvelous stop-motion characters Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep – have come up with a lovely 3-D feature film, “Arthur Christmas,” directed and co-written by Sarah Smith, that manages to put a new spin on old material. The question it poses is: How does Santa get all those presents out to millions (billions?) of certifiably well-behaved children in one night? 

The answer, if this movie is to believed – and yes, Virginia, why not? – is that Santa employs a vast squadron of gift-delivering elves in what amounts to an annual global commando raid. The crisis here is that one little girl in Cornwall has been mistakenly overlooked. How to get a pink bicycle under her tree in time for Christmas morning?

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Since the Santa family is somewhat dysfunctional, it falls to 136-year-old Grandsanta (voiced by Bill Nighy) and his grandson and possible Santa heir apparent Arthur (James McAvoy), to save the day. The action is swift and witty, and the 3-D effects are imaginative and not simply tacked on as with so many animated movies these days. Grade: A- (Rated PG for some mild rude humor.)