How’s your December been so far? Mine’s been a mixed bag, to put it mildly. First some minor car trouble. Then a head cold for the hubby and sinusitis for me. Followed by a spike in “crappier-than-thou” behavior that seemed to crop up everywhere, from national politics to the workplace to our weekday commutes. All pesky, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Then the news from Sandy Hook Elementary. Followed by a string of local almost-copycat incidents, ranging from the wretchedly immature to the truly frightening. What is there to do, except spend some extra time with loved ones, put some change in the bell-ringer’s bucket, and re-read Longfellow’s “Christmas Bells” several times, hoping that that last verse is true?
Well, try giving yourself a holiday gift by putting “Arthur Christmas” into your DVD player, or your online movie queue. It’s inventive, funny, sweet and beautifully made.
For me, it provided a refreshing break from a weary month that seemed beset by a bizarre trio of luchadores: Shrieking Commercialism, Contrived Sentiment and True-Life Horror. Why “Arthur Christmas” is not more widely known mystifies me. Here’s some of what it packs into a mere hour and 40 minutes: an immensely detailed concept of how Santa Claus’ massive enterprise works, with glimpses into its past; a goofball pair of Christmas slippers; and a sly and affectionate portrait of three generations of a decidedly imperfect family. All delivered with Aardman Animations’ unique approach: less treacle than Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks, with every bit as much real humor and originality.
Fellow wonks, I think movies are powerful. Whether a flick is great, so-so or awful, when it’s viewed at the right time by the right audience (whether that audience is one person, or a crowd), it can inspire change. So I wish I could tell you that “Arthur Christmas” has the ability to make all the misguided in this world straighten up, fix whatever messes they’ve made, and start treating other human beings decently. But even the most ardent believer in the power of cinema would be wrong to make those claims. So it’s more in the spirit of lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness that I’ll be reaching for my DVD shelf, to move “Elf” and “Polar Express” (whose animation style is starting to look slightly more creepy with each passing year) to make room for “Arthur Christmas”. Hope whatever winter holiday(s) you celebrate(d) is/are (a) good one(s) for you, and here’s to 2013.
P.S. The song that provides the basis for the title of this entry was written by Ralph Blane, a fellow Okie. It’s one of my favorites, especially the versions that don’t shy away from that last verse: “If the Fates allow … Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” Doesn’t get much realer than that.