Arthur Christmas is a spirited, comically chaotic and adorably anarchic addition to the world's oversupply of holiday cartoons. It's very British, in other words — from its voice casting to the slang slung by the assorted Santas.
"Assorted Santas?" Why, yes. Santas in this version of North Pole Inc. serve for about 70 years and pass the job down to a son. The current Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent) is more of a "figurehead" in the intricate time-traveling incarnation of the family business.
But the old man won't go. Even when the organization realizes that out of the billions and billions served, a little girl in Cornwall didn't get her bike, Santa himself shrugs it off.
Arthur, Santa's klutzy younger son, winningly voiced by James McAvoy, is shocked. Arthur won't hear of it. And in his ancient grandpa, Grandsanta, played with demonic glee by the great Bill Nighy, he finds a sympathetic ear. The old man wants to get his old sleigh out and make the delivery, with real reindeer.
That's when Arthur Christmas takes off — literally. The movie's energy flags at about the one-hour mark, but in a genre already overflowing with the sentimental, Arthur Christmas is a most welcome stocking-stuffer.