Arthur Christmas is a 2011 3D animated Christmas movie by Sony Pictures Animation and Aardman Animations. Despite having a name that is reminiscent to another Christmas movie about a disappointing member of Santa's family who seems to fail to live up to the Claus clan's expectations that was made several years earlier, the plot of Arthur Christmas is nothing like the comedy Fred Claus and is in fact a heartwarming, underappreciated Christmas story.
In a world where Santa Claus isn't a name, but a title and job passed down family lines, Arthur is the disappointing younger son of the current Santa Claus, Malcolm. Malcolm at this time in the story is an ineffective elderly figurehead who lets his older, more ambitious son run the North Pole. While Steve, the elder brother, runs the highly technological and advanced present creation and distribution system the North Pole has setup with his entourage of elfin operatives, Arthur is kept out of the way answering the letters children write to his father. Also in the family is Margaret "Mrs. Claus" who just wants her husband to retire so they can spend more time together, and Grand Santa, Malcolm's father and Steve and Arthur's grandfather. While the headstrong Steve is convinced that cutting-edge technology is the key to progress, Grand Santa believes in the traditional methods that include sleighs and reindeer.
It comes to light that one child has been inadvertently missed in the Christmas rush, and while Malcolm and Steve both find this to be an acceptable loss, Arthur doesn't. Grand Santa decides that this is the perfect opportunity to show that the old ways are superior to the new modern ones Steve likes, and Together with an Elf named Bryony, Grand Santa and Arthur spend the movie bumbling around the world trying desperately to make sure a little girl gets her bicycle.
This movie is really sweet, but not in a soppy, saccharine way.
The film could have easily gone the "old versus new" route and been really trite, showing that traditions are better than modernity that a lot of Christmas movies do, and while at first it looks like it's going to go that way, it never actually picks a side and it shows that both methods have their ups and downs. Arthur himself has to explain it to Steve and Grand Santa when the two argue about it: it doesn't matter how the gift is delivered, so long as it gets delivered at all.
There are no bad guys in this story. Steve is presented as being a bit too ambitious and a little bit of a jerk, but his motivations are understandable, and he clearly does care about his family. If anything, the most questionably moral character is Grand Santa, and he's comedic relief.
Minor spoiler here, but there is one line in particular that really got to me. It's during the scene where Steve is defending his system, and trying to tell everyone how out of the billions of children who did receive their gifts, one kid missing out isn't even a big enough number to ping the ratio. It is a non-percentage. He tells them, "One kid out of several billion doesn't matter!"
His outburst is greeted with silence until one of the elves he's talking to asks him, in apparent genuine confusion, "Which one is the one that doesn't matter?"
The other elves start bringing up information about kids on their screens and are asking each other and him, "is he the one who doesn't matter? Is she the one who doesn't matter? Which is the one that doesn't matter?"
That scene and exchange struck me as remarkably poignant.