'Arthur Christmas' long, magical

Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) in ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, an animated film produced by Aardman...

Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) in ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, an animated film produced by Aardman Animations for Sony Pictures Animation.

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 AM ET

Here is a little girl posting a wish list to Santa. Her letter asks St. Nick that age-old question: How can the sleigh go around the world fast enough for Santa to deliver to each and every child on Christmas Eve?

How indeed?

You'll find the answer in Arthur Christmas, the 3D story of Santa's younger, less sophisticated son. Arthur Christmas opens with a lengthy scene involving a traditional Santa, but with thousands of elves and a spaceship-like sleigh delivering gifts at lightning speed. It's all very Mission Impossible (and clever) and it's all organized out of North Pole Mission Control, where Steve Christmas (voiced by Hugh Laurie), older brother and heir apparent to Santa, runs the show.

His younger brother Arthur (James McAvoy) is sweet and clumsy and his job is reading and responding to children's letters to Santa. More than anyone else at the North Pole, Arthur has the Christmas spirit. He's just not very business oriented, that's all.

Santa (Jim Broadbent) finally finishes his Christmas deliveries and comes home, exhausted. Then something dreadful happens. A child's toy has not been delivered. A little girl in England will wake up to an empty stocking. But it's only a few hours until the sun rises on Christmas Day, and Santa and all his experts say that the gift simply cannot be delivered in time.

Arthur is shocked. He is determined that this child get her gift. Luckily, Arthur's grandfather (Bill Nighy) -- who was once Santa himself until retirement -- has an unexpected solution. The old magic sleigh and the reindeer are still at the North Pole, and Grandsanta can't wait to go off on an adventure. He and Arthur take Christmas into their own hands, a fantastic voyage that takes them to England via Africa, Mexico and Canada. (Toronto, all snowy and CN Tower-ish, is a big part of their excellent adventure). Along for the trip is a manic gift-wrap elf called Bryony (Ashley Jensen), whose no-nonsense approach to paper and ribbon adds a lot to the comedy.

Arthur Christmas is quick and funny, and only in the last act does it begin to spin out of control -- a regular problem with kids' movies. There's just a bit too much hysteria and running around with three different Santas, a UFO fear that puts fighter jets on Arthur's tail and repeated navigational errors that start getting a bit tedious. The movie is also too long. Never mind. Your job is probably to accompany children to this film and they, the target audience, will probably like it very much.

As for that target audience, be advised that a music video of Justin Bieber singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town is shown before screenings of Arthur Christmas.

This film is rated G


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