As this Norwegian-made children’s feature begins, it’s coming up to Christmas time and tween Mariann (Marte Klerck-Nilssen) and her little brother (Vegard Strand Eide) are trimming the tree with extraordinary intra-sibling harmony. The era seems to be somewhere in the middle of the last century judging by the type of cars on the streets, the lack of semiconductor-driven toys and gadgets and, to an extent, the clothes – though Norwegians’ fondness for traditional dress, especially when it comes to loppisgenser or “flea” pattern sweaters and chunky wool toques, makes nailing the period a challenge.
The important thing is that this unfolds in a utopian past full of good cheer, Christmas markets and magic that brings toys to be won at a spin-the-wheel stall to life, like the teddy bear of the title, which is dubbed into English with the voice of Zachary Levi. Mariann wins the teddy legitimately, but the furry scamp moves the wheel when no one is looking so that he has a chance to be won by an adult instead, who will take him to see the world. You see, he doesn’t understand how nice it is to be loved and cuddled by a child, although you can bet krone to kransekake he’ll learn about them by the end.
Teddy has a “B” plot adventure as he is bought by an international man of mystery and meets a chatty plush hedgehog, while Mariann learns why breaking and entering is wrong, a life lesson surely all parents will get behind. Grandparents come to visit, little brother has an existential crisis over whether Santa is really his father, his actual dad (Jan Gunnar Røise) takes a bravura pratfall over the newly decorated Christmas tree, and mum (Mariann Hole, sporting a truly gorgeous teased-up tousled blond bob) manages not to burn the rice pudding. This one has all the Norwegian drama of Yuletide in one tidy package, yes sir.
If you are not a child under the age of eight or nine, you may find yourself distracted by scrutinising how the film-makers have tried to disguise the disconnect between the actors speaking their original Norwegian and the requirement to dub into other languages. This means no one’s mouth is visible for too long, and if possible moustaches are deployed to disguise lip movements. Obviously, that doesn’t work so well between children and women, so they mug a lot for the camera in order to distract attention from their mouths. The animation, incidentally, is seamlessly executed and quite charming.
• Teddy’s Christmas is released on 1 December in UK and Irish cinemas.