Then just when you think it’ll be a one-sided lament for days gone by, the story adds another layer of depth by showing how sometimes progress is good, that the old ways aren’t always necessarily the better ways, and that opposing generational sides would do well to humble themselves, support and learn from each other.

All of these themes, ideas and values are naturally embodied in the child-like optimism of Arthur. He sees the best and believes the best in everyone, is selfless to all, and so is crushed when others dampen that spirit with so-called practicalities and limited faith

But his heartfelt conviction that every child is important, that “the one” matters so much it’s worth it to sacrifice everything, drives Arthur to overcome his fears and insecurities. A truly indomitable spirit rises within him, not to prove anyone wrong or even to prove something to himself but, simply, to make sure that one little girl knows she is loved on Christmas morning. For a Christmas film with no reference to Christ throughout, that value is very Christ-like indeed. It’s emotionally resonant and, admittedly, left me choked up.

So too did the familial angle of Santa, his two sons, and the eldest Grandsanta.  Arthur’s sacrificial spirit helps them not only to see what they’ve lost sight of in themselves and each other, but also to realize that this young idealist whom they condescended to and dismissed is actually the truest Santa of them all. Arthur does not take pride in this victory; it’s not even in his nature to consider it. He meets their appreciation with love and an open heart, sharing the moment rather than reveling in it.

The voice-cast is universally spot on for each character type, and Jim Broadbent probably has the most fun as the lovably aloof Santa. It’s also available in 3D; while good, the higher-priced effect is not necessary to fully enjoy the experience, either narratively or visually. 

It’s the screenplay, its values, and effective emotional peaks that are the real foundation here. From that, first-time director Sarah Smith builds an entertaining and meaningful holiday treat that could well find itself into many families’ annual viewing rotations for years to come.

Arthur Christmas doesn’t have the level of slapstick we get from DreamWorks, nor is it as timeless as the best of Pixar. Nevertheless, it wins your heart. What it may lack in laughs it more than makes up for in energy, invention, feel-good charm, and a whole lotta heart. 

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: None.
  • Language/Profanity: None.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: None. Two elves kiss briefly.
  • Violence: Comic action and mayhem; nothing offensive or visually graphic. Occasional peril where lives are in danger, but no killings, deaths or anything frightening.