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?
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.)