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Arthur Christmas fits the bill

OK, now that December is here it's official: I can pull out all the holiday stuff with impunity, and without being branded a festive-sweater-wearing Christmas Crazy.

OK, now that December is here it's official: I can pull out all the holiday stuff with impunity, and without being branded a festive-sweater-wearing Christmas Crazy.

Along with the garland, my kids' lopsided crafts, and that tacky Rockin' Santa that refuses to die will be the bin of Christmas movies we look forward to watching each year.

What makes a Christmas classic? Start the conversation around the coffee machine and you'll get highly personal and vehement opinions on the matter. In our house, we watch It's A Wonderful Life (though some prefer Nic Cage in The Family Man), White Christmas (to see Crosby and Clooney crooning "Counting Your Blessings" as much as to hear them sing "White Christmas"), The Snowman (shortest, saddest movie ever) and A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course. We put on our 3D glasses for Santa vs. the Snowman, make sure the kids see The Nativity Story to remind them how the whole thing started, and then watch Love, Actually (too many F-bombs) when they're in bed.

But all those come second to my true favourites. While trolling for Cyber Monday deals a Christmas miracle occurred: I found a Rankin-Bass movie that I never knew existed, and ordered two copies of A Miser Brothers' Christmas. It can sit proudly beside Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Year Without a Santa Claus, Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey and all my other jerky, stop-motion faves.

Remember when you were little, and you only had one shot to see the Christmas specials on TV? If you missed it you were a whole year older before you could watch Frosty and Crystal get married again.

There used to be a few good holiday movies from which to choose each season, starting in the 1930s, with perennial favourite A Christmas Carol. The 1940s gave us some great films, including Holiday Inn and Miracle of 34th Street. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was a bit of weirdness in the '60s. We won't even discuss the 1970s and '80s, when Santa got sinister in such films as Black Christmas, Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night. Or 1989's Elves, in which neo-Nazis plan to impregnate women with elves to create a super-race.

Things improved greatly when Ralphie asked for a Red Ryder BB Gun in 1983's A Christmas Story. Then came Home Alone, Prancer, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, The Preacher's Wife, The Santa Clause, The Polar Express and Will Ferrell's Elf.

But there's a paucity of holiday movies contending for top spot this year: Arthur Christmas stands as the lone contender this season, unless you lined up to see the truly terrible A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas, or you count the endless Barbie and Santa Paws offerings that went straight to DVD. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy those too, every holiday-party-cheeseball minute, but classics they 'aint.

Arthur Christmas fits the bill. From Aardman Animation, the studio that brought you Wallace and Gromit and Flushed Away, the film follows the hectic path of Santa's youngest son Arthur, as he endeavours to deliver one forgotten gift to a child on Christmas Eve. It's funny, with a straight-line, kidfriendly plot and vivid (not manic) animation. And nary a Nazi-elf-impregnator in sight.

After all, it's cheer (not fear) we need this season. And if you can leave the theatre with a smile on your face, you might forgive the guy who cuts you off on the way to the mall. Maybe.