I had intended to use a picture of Arthur, GrandSanta, and Bryony in the oldschool sleigh, but this picture pushed my "awwwww" button so hard, I was compelled to use it instead.
We start with the little girl in the picture above. She's writing a letter to Santa, and she has all kinds of questions about how Santa-ing works. At least one of her questions is answered in a shot of a series of framed photographs in a corridor at Christmas headquarters. No, the Santa she's writing to is not the same person as Saint Nicholas. He was the original, but the title has passed down, father to son, to the current Santa (voiced by Jim Broadbent). We also learn that Santa doesn't actually read the letters that are sent to him. That job is delegated to the Mail Room, which is where we find Arthur (James McAvoy), Santa's younger son, who is the biggest fan of Christmas EVER. He writes a very sweet reply to the little girl, assuring her that Santa is very much real, and keeping the drawing she sent pinned to the wall behind his desk.
Arthur's older brother is Steve (Hugh Laurie), who is pretty much the brains of the operation. He's taken Christmas Eve into the 21st Century, making present drops a well oiled machine, run by thousands of elves, with Santa only placing one ceremonial present in each town where their huge spaceship of a sleigh stops. I love the little ninja action of the elves and that everyone in the operation has a smartphone with GPS and naughty/nice gauge. :P So everything's going swimmingly, and they return to the North Pole to have Christmas dinner, celebrate another "Mission Accomplished" (yes, there's a Bush-era-esque banner), and get some well-earned rest.
Except there's a problem. There's a present still undelivered. Which means a child got missed. And what a coincidence - it's the little girl we met in the beginning. Arthur is very upset - she's going to wake up and think Santa doesn't care about her! Or doesn't exist! Steve assures him that they'll messenger the package and she'll get it in five days, but that's not good enough for Arthur - it will ruin the magic! Steve says there's not another way - they can't take the super-sleigh back out, because it just traveled 7 million miles or summat in one night. And his feeling is that it's not a big deal if only one child out of all those millions is missed - it's only a tiny margin of error, after all. The rest of the film is Arthur's quest to deliver this present and preserve the magic of Christmas for this one child, with the help of GrandSanta (Bill Nighy) and a gift wrap elf named Bryony.
There are a lot of great little details. One of my favorite things is Bryony and her bow porn - she's loaded her smartphone with pictures of bows like you or I would load an iPhone with pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch. Not that I have done any such thing, and how DARE you insinuate such a thing! And I looooooooved GrandSanta and his efforts to prove that Christmas can be done without all this newfangled-ry. And the newfangled-ry itself is quite a clever commentary on how crazy the commercial aspect of Christmas has become.
This movie - the basic story, anyway - reminded me a lot of the Book of Mormon musical, and I'm not sure I can explain why without going into spoilers. For those of you who've seen the musical, though, Arthur is totally the Elder Cunningham and Steve the Elder Price; the journeys of their characters are very similar. "I'll be the candle" may be my favorite line from any film this year. My favorite image, though, is of the four generations of Santa, peeking through the closet door at a sight none of them has ever seen - the look on a child's face on Christmas morning.
LOVED this movie, and it was the perfect thing to see to put me in the holiday spirit. I hope many of you get a chance to see it and that it does the same for you. If you do Christmas, of course. :-)