There is trouble in the North Pole. Santa (Jim Broadbent) is listless and bored, barely phoning it in. His oldest son and heir (Hugh Laurie) has digitized and corporatized Christmas, while his predecessor (Bill Nighy), retired, undermines him at every turn, dreaming of a return to glory. His youngest son (James MacAvoy) has the spirit but lacks any discernible skill. When a gift from Santa goes undelivered, the fissures of this dysfunctional royal family emerge.
The computer animation is expert, the story enjoyable for kids and adults alike, and it’s even slyly subversive. Santa Nighy is a misogynist, Laurie’s male elf assistant appears to have a crush on him, and the elves who man the North Pole have a denizen-of-Jonestown quality (so much so that the film threatens a mass elf suicide at the end).