Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie Review: Arthur Christmas

Every so often, everyone in England decides to get together to make a movie.

In 2003, it was Love Actually.

In early 2011, it was Gnomeo and Juliet.

And in late 2011, it was Arthur Christmas.

I started a post about Gnomeo and Juliet in April, then shelved it a couple days later. The movie was fine, but so astoundingly bland and inoffensive that I just couldn't think of anything to say.

Arthur Christmas, also starring James McAvoy (Jesus, he's in everything) is cut from much the same cloth. Bill Nighy also stars. Did I say James McAvoy was in everything? Nighy makes him look like a recluse.

Those last two paragraphs? I wrote them three weeks ago. I feel that I should write something about this movie, but having seen it, it's left me with nothing to say. It's no more substantial than cotton candy.

That shouldn't be the case. It REALLY seems to want to to say something. Damned if I know what it is, though. It's just bland, tepid, and raises the kind of points idiots think are thought-provoking. Gnomeo & Juliet suffered from the same problems, though to a lesser extent. It wants to be edgy and clever, but stops just short of being so.

I think that's my real problem with the movie. I can enjoy treacle. I watch My Little Pony with my daughter. I can enjoy the darkest, most subversive movie out there.

Arthur Christmas is the worst of both worlds.  It wants the cred for being clever and edgy, but never works for it. It tiptoes right up to the line but never takes any real risks.

I was watching some old Muppets with Lily. We watched the one Christmas special, not the Muppet Christmas Carol, which rules, but the earlier one, where a bunch of Henson Studio characters like the Fraggles and the Sesame Street Muppets get together on Christmas. There was a subplot where another Muppet wants to hook up with Camilla, Gonzo's chicken and get down with some "scratchin' and squawkin'", and another where the Swedish Chef wanted to kill and eat Big Bird. The Muppet Show had heart, but it also had bite. It's quietly subversive in a way that Arthur Christmas is not, and never has the guts to be.

You know, I think that's the moral of the movie. Arthur Christmas is the lovable fuckup son of Santa Claus. His brother Steve has modernized the operation, but...well, I'm not sure what the problem is with Steve. Apparently it's that he's modernized the operation and we're supposed to hate him.

Anyway, one toy fails to get delivered, and there is a madcap scramble to deliver it. Everybody is kind of a dick but Arthur and he winds up as the new Santa because he's the most inoffensive character around. Not because he's qualified, but because he's the least disliked of all the characters.

And that's how I feel about the movie. It takes care not to offend anyone by being  too provocative, which ensures that it can advertise on Webkinz, which is where we saw, but also makes certain it will never rise above the level of a movie that advertises on Webkinz.

It reminds me of a line from the Last Unicorn: Offering no true magic, he drew no magic back from them...

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