Why Is Arthur Christmas a Masterpiece?
December 31, 2013
(Shortened version of the intro. Cut to NC in his usual spot)
Nostalgia Critic: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. (sadly) Well, Christmas is over. (suddenly angry) And it SUCKS! If Halloween wasn't such a great holiday, I would totally have Christmas take that one over, just like we do with Thanksgiving! (as he talks, an image of a turkey is swapped with image of a Christmas tree. A glass shattering is heard) But, on the plus side, I have discovered a brand-new holiday classic. It's not even that old, but deserves to be talked about. It's called Arthur Christmas. (a cover of a book "Arthur's Christmas" by Marc Brown is shown) No, goddamn it! I hate how many times that happens!
(Title of said movie is shown and clips from the trailers and the movie are playing as NC speaks throughout)
NC (vo): For those of you who actually DO remember at least the trailers, you might be thinking, "What? That weird-looking British movie where the characters' eyes all look like Toy Story screen tests? Tell me it's not true." Well, surprisingly, if you give the movie a chance, not only would you find it to be funny, but it also captures the importance of Christmas from a more contemporary point of view, as well as kinda from the nostalgic point of view. The movie is about several generations of Santas, and how the latest one is getting ready to hand the reins over to his oldest son. But Santa's other son, Arthur, who works in the mailing room, sees a child's been missed, and so, he has to travel across the seas to try and get the present to her for Christmas. Along the way, he's up by his granddad and an elf from the wrapping department who takes her job way too seriously. Just look at how hardcore she is with her skills.
Bryony: (while fighting the lions) Automatic tape guns! / Laser-guided scissors! / Standard-issue gift wrap!
Arthur: There's no time for a bow!
Bryony: There's always time for a bow!
NC (vo): What follows is magic, laughs, action and all sorts of great visual wonders. A pretty straightforward story, but the hard comedy and greatness of it all lies in the details. Look at how fast this comedy is. The animation is so quick, but the attention to detail and tons of little side jokes is unbelievable. I mean, look how many things they do in just a few seconds of screentime.
(Santa and his elves are delivering the presents)
Elf 1: Stand by, S-1.
Elf 2: You're gonna make it, soldier.
Elf 1: Aarhus is merry.
Elf on walkie-talkie: Santa has left the building.
NC (vo): This is a movie you have to see three times in order to see all the jokes. And you have to watch three more times just to hear all the jokes.
Elf 1: Field elves, jingle! Jingle, jingle! Drop time: 18.14 seconds per household. / A grand piano. This kid must have been good his whole life.
Elf 3: Making a list.
Elf 4: Check it twice.
Elf 3: Checking twice.
Elf 4: That's a wrap for Denmark.
Computer: Converting milk and cookies to biofuel.
(Clips from Hot Fuzz are playing)
NC (vo): It reminds me a lot of Hot Fuzz, where it's funny the first time you see it, but then, when you watch it again, there's a ton of little things you never noticed. I don't know. Maybe there's something to British comedy nowadays that they feel they just have to do things as fast as possible.
(Back to Arthur Christmas)
NC (vo): Not that I'm against it at all, because...hey, that just means the rewatch value is made even better. Sometimes comedy can be too fast, though, if you don't have the right thing to care or focus on. And this movie definitely has that, too. Not just on the goal of our main character, but also how three generations of extremes are constantly at war.
(Santa Claus' family members are shown in various clips)
NC (vo): Santa's father bitches about how everything should be done the old way, Santa's son bitches about how everything should be done technologically advanced and top-of-the-line, and Santa himself is old, tired and simply looking for love and attention while not realizing he's actually doing very little work. And at the center of it is Arthur, who doesn't care what method is being taken, as long as the toy gets delivered. So he uses any, and all means, necessary. He doesn't care if it's old, new, or who even gets the most praised. He just wants to make sure the kid is happy and still believes in the magic of Christmas. This is brilliant because not only is the battle of technology versus hand-craftsmanship still going on, but it will always be going on for years and years. So this movie shows very little sign of dating. The technology, too, is based off of real devices, but, still, is their own creation, with their own unique spin on it. So even that won't be dated too bad.
(Clips are focusing on Arthur, the main character)
NC (vo): And like I said before, the center is, of course, Arthur. The only one who reads the letters to Santa and knows the love that all the children have for him, and for Christmas all around. So, what? We should all look to him? He's gonna have all the answers, right? Actually, no! In fact, he has very few of them. He's a klutz, he's a mess-up. Whether it's old or new, he will always find a way to screw things up. But what he does have is the spirit and the effort.
(Some more clips, the majority of them focusing on the ending, are shown)
NC (vo): And in the end, it's a combination of everybody's efforts that pulls things through. And that's why it's so good. It would have been so easy for this movie to just pick a side, say that only the old, traditional ways are best and you can't beat the original magic, or maybe even make the older son a bad guy because he's too greedy or something. Or, heck, even the current Santa, because he's too forgetful and greedy. But, no. There are no bad guys in this. They're all just people who got lost in their work and forgot what the purpose of their job was to begin with. They don't just slap the word "villain" on any of them. They're all dedicated, but just confused. And I think this is something a lot of people can relate to, especially around Christmas time. Trying their hardest to pull through on something, and, in doing so, losing focus of what's most important. And sure, this isn't the first film to draw attention to how the focus of Christmas can be lost.
(The DVD cover for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) is shown)
NC (vo): But much like Christmas Carol, it mixes the elements of the past, present, and future all into one. The past being the generation that wants to keep it the old way, the present, with all the new and improved technology, and the future, in terms of which methods are gonna be used and by whom. And in the end, it focuses on another important element of Christmas, and that's compromise. Not any one way being right, but trying your hardest to combine the best elements of all of them together, mixing the strongest parts of the old ways with the strongest parts of the new ways. In my opinion, I think this is right up there with Charlie Brown, The Grinch, Christmas Carol, and all those other greats. So what if there's a lot of current technology in it? The message is still timeless, and so are its characters. It gets across a classic idea in a new way that's all its own. It has the heart, it has the laughs, it has the visual wonder, and it has the weight and respect of everything magical. I hope this movie becomes popular more and more with every passing year. And when people hear the title, maybe soon (a cover of "Arthur's Christmas" shows up again) this won't be the first thing everybody thinks of. If you didn't catch it this year, definitely be sure to check it out the following Christmas. You certainly won't regret it.
(NC leaves playing an air guitar as we hear audio clips of Nicolas Cage's best freakouts and come to credits)
Peter Loew (from "Vampire's Kiss"): I'M A VAMPIRE! I'M A VAMPIRE!
Edward Malus (from "The Wicker Man"): HOW'D IT GET BURNED, HOW'D IT GET BURNED?!
Peter Loew: ...Fucking files!!
Edward Malus: Killing me won't bring back your goddamn honey! / OH! NO, NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES!
Terence McDonagh (from "Bad Lieutenant"): Can I get my prescription, PLEASE?!
Roy Waller (from "Matchstick Men"): ...PISSED BLOOD?!
Stanley Goodspeed (from "The Rock"): Zeus' BUTTHOLE!!
Terence McDonagh: What are these fucking iguanas doing on my coffee table?
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