ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Sarah Smith, dir., co-script (with Peter Baynham). UK/USA: Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation (prod.) / Columbia Pictures (US dist.), Sony Pictures Entertainment/International (most other places [see IMDb for details of dist.]), 2011. 97 min. James, McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and Ashley Jensen featured voices.
Animation, introduced with a Justin Bieber music video of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," featuring JB wearing "an electronic vest, and one animatronic glove — palling around with creepy living toys in Santa's Space Workshop"; the New York Magazine reviewer does not like JB's "Steampunk […] look," but it is significant in itself and for the following film <>. The Bieber video features a ballerina doll of the Coppelia variety and other Victorian-looking automata and clockwork gears and cogs. The video is too upbeat and light-Industrial to be classic Steampunk, but that is the suggestion, and the Bieber video prefigures the positive technology in the techno-rich Christmas movie to follow. In ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, technology from the Victorian era through, say, World War I is mostly positive; modern, modernist, and po-mo electronic high-tech isn't evil, but it is problematic: allowing very efficient toy delivery to a world with a lot of children but threatening to drain the magic from Christmas (in a highly secularized, if sanitized, «Put Saturn Back in the Saturnalia!» view of Christmas). In the three generations of Santas seen in the film, very old Grandsanta (voiced by Nighy) channels Marty Feldman's Igor from Mel Brooks's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974 <>); this is very funny for the adults in the audience who know YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and — along with the numerous visual allusions to earlier SF films — puts ARTHUR CHRISTMAS into dialog with the theme of the machine in a long history of SF.
5. DRAMA, RDE, 09/XII/11