When Father Christmas inadvertently overlooks one small child on Christmas Eve his accident-prone son Arthur must step into the breach and deliver that last present. Britain's celebrated Aardman animation studio tweaks the traditional Santa story to create a hi-tech North Pole HQ where millions of presents are distributed by a giant supersonic sleigh guided by smart tablet. However, in this state-of-the-art world we stand to lose sight of the real spirit of Christmas. Arthur's here to make sure we don't in a fable destined to become a Crimbo classic.
The traditional, holly-decked story of Santa Claus is catapulted into the new millennium in this tale where North Pole technology has kept pace with the rest of the world.
Instead of laboriously delivering every gift himself, Santa directs regimented SWAT-style teams of elves armed with a variety of gadgets including the Stock-1NG stocking filler gun and a shoulder-mounted tape gun for wrapping.
They're dropped not from a sleigh but from the awesome S-1, a giant Starship Enterprise-style aircraft that can hover over a city but remain unobserved from the ground thanks to its Stealth Bomber-style camouflage.
Yet despite all this awesome technology, Gwen, an eight-year-old schoolgirl who lives in Cornwall, is mistakenly missed off the list.
Santa (Broadbent), who is ripe for retirement, and his eldest son and heir apparent, the gadget-obsessed Steve (Laurie), consider it an acceptable margin for error...but Father Christmas' youngest son Arthur (McAvoy) is determined no-one shall miss out.
Debut director Sarah Smith - has who worked on such celebrated TV series as The League of Gentlemen and Brass Eye - maintains a very British feel for this celebration of the original Christmas fable.
Despite some awe-inspiring creations - the ominously gargantuan S-1 and a wonderfully-realised Christmas Eve elve drop on an American city - the movie never loses its human scale.
Old-fashioned values are acknowledged when Arthur has to turn to his Steptoe-like grandfather to dust down a trusty, traditional wood-and-brass sleigh in order to reach Gwen before sunrise.
Laurie's Steve is a fabulous character, a geek-come-military strategist who blindly keeps faith with new technology even when a wonky satnav takes him to Mexico instead of Cornwall.
As well as a cockle-warming Christmas tale there's also a cautionary note about trusting gleaming hardware over simple warm-hearted human decency.
A Christmas cracker.