Arthur Christmas (2011)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Arthur Christmas (2011)
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

My thoughts: It’s complicated. But basically, there’s a Christmas Eve screw-up at North Pole Mission Control, and Santa’s eager but accident-prone younger son, Arthur, races against the clock in an effort to save one little girl’s Christmas from near-certain ruin.

How did I go nearly ten years without knowing this merrily daring holiday adventure exists? Well, I’ll admit I passed it up when I first caught a glimpse of it last Christmas season. I was so full of the sheer and utter wonder that is Klaus, my soul didn’t have room for another animated Christmas picture so soon.

Thank you for your patience, Arthur. You were worth coming back for.

No, he’s not American, but the awkward hero of this movie has about as much heart as Steve Rogers has even before anyone knows him as Captain America. Arthur’s dogged and almost crazy determination is something to see.

Such a fun story full of clever and imaginative nuggets, great characters, and plenty to laugh or chuckle about as it delivers a resounding message to echo around the globe: Every child matters!

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Toy Story 4 (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Toy Story 4 (2019)
Rated G. Animated, Comedy, Action, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Feature Film

Description (from the film case): Pixar Animation Studios proudly presents the adventure of a lifetime! When Woody, Buzz and the gang join Bonnie on a road trip with her new craft-project-turned-toy, Forky, the innocent little spork’s hilarious antics launch Woody on a wild quest filled with unexpected new characters—and one long-lost friend!

My thoughts: “To infinity…” “…and beyond.”

I’ve been following the Toy Story story and characters for a quarter of a century. And I’ve been nervous every time a sequel has come out, as second and third movies can be notorious for taking a good thing downhill and making you wish folks would’ve just left the original awesomeness alone.

Could filmmakers maintain this particular awesomeness for a fourth whole movie? Well. Turns out, they’ve done just that.

I mean, I could go on in detail about the amazing detail of the art and animation, the wonderful character development, the hilarity (and downright creepiness, sometimes) and action and relatability of it all. But what may get me most is that the Toy Story movies are just that: a story. Not just a nice little amusing tale, but a story of depth and heart, of excitement and nostalgia. Imaginative and highly accessible genius coming to life onscreen—four movies in a row.

Outstanding!

Whether or not you’ve been here the whole quarter of a century, be sure to watch the movies in order, if you can.

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Hair Love (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Hair Love (2019)
Rated G. Animated, African American, Family Film
Academy Award: Best Animated Short Film

My thoughts: It’s simple really, but a lot—and plenty relatable for so many of us. It’s an Oscar-winning short family film about a father facing the daunting task of doing his daughter’s hair. But the story is more than that, of course.

Refreshing and clever, amusing and adorable, touching and real, this picture is. It’s no small feat for a film to manage to be everything in fewer than seven minutes.

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Haven’t seen Hair Love yet? Take a look!

 

Klaus (2019)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Klaus (2019)
Rated PG. Animated, Christmas, Comedy, Family Film

Description (from Netflix): A selfish postman and a reclusive toymaker form an unlikely friendship, delivering joy to a cold, dark town that desperately needs it.

My thoughts: I heard a little positive buzz via Twitter about the return of 2D animation for Christmas, and being the lover of holiday flicks that I am, I decided to check this movie out. It had an entertaining enough start for me, and I settled in to watch something with middling but adequately fun humor. You know, mild amusement wrapped in about an hour and a half of holiday spirit.

I had no idea I would eventually laugh out loud as much as I did, or that I’d wind up with tears running down my face at more than one point in the movie. And at the last moment of the last scene that punctuates it all, I threw my hands straight up in the air, feeling as oddly triumphant as I was thoroughly touched.

Yes, this movie is fun and funny, cute and Christmassy, but it’s also a rather brilliant work of storytelling, adding clever and imaginative details and twists to bring a legend to life, so that even though you already know what’s going to happen at times, the story as a whole is fresh and refreshing.

I wouldn’t expect everyone to wind up weeping as I did, but don’t prejudge or dismiss this as “just a kid’s cartoon” or “only a Christmas comedy.” It’s an entertaining and beautifully developed story of friendship and family, love and loss, discovery and growth, risk and adventure, reconciliation and redemption. It has to go on my list of all-time favorite Christmas movies.

And yes—I do dig the wonderful 2D animation!

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