Now, I must admit I missed this the first time around and only really caught this Will Ferrell vehicle on DVD (and again on telly the other week). However, like other recent Christmas classics like Bad Santa, Elf has a feel of mid-80s Christmas movies and can easily stand proud next to long time classics like Scrooged and (dare I say it) even Gremlins.
I admit Will Ferrell is a sort of a Marmite-like actor, either you like him or truly despise every curly hair on his oversize noggin. Personally, no matter how many lame comedies he has made recently or anything he could be roped into doing if the cash is right in the future he is, and always will be, Ron Burgundy.
While Elf hasn’t got Ferrell in full ‘scotch and moustache’ mode making sure that San Diego is once again ‘staying lucky’, we do get to see the six foot plus lug of a man dressed in yellow tights, which really is a sight to behold and probably not one you want to dwell upon.
However, for this festive treat from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, the idea of chunky American blokes in such garish attire seems very fitting as, combining a sense of slap-sick humour, happy feel good moments, James Caan and a whole pile of sugar, syrup and dollops of Christmas cheer, Elf could have been very easily a movie that would not only rot your teeth but also your brain.
However, Elf, like a good Christmas pudding, combines all the right ingredients in just the right amounts; yes it’s sickly in places and after a while you may have had enough, but it’s just this side of feel good, and even with the saccharine-covered message, has enough dark humour and slapstick to keep even the most cynical reviewer happy.
The story, for those who haven’t seen it, is about Buddy, a orphan who is, by some twist of fate, adopted by the Elves of Santa’s North Pole factory, who, as we all know, are those really responsible for building all the toys at Christmas (not Mattel or Hasbro as we are left to believe by the adverts) and being human does not fit in. So with this idea in mind, Buddy travels through the candy cane forests and the gumdrop seas to get to New York and meet up with his ‘real’ father, a grouchy James Caan who just so happens to have lost his Christmas spirit through long hours at work and distance between himself and his family. Cue lots of fish out of water gags where Buddy stumbles his way through New York, hitting cars, getting stuck in revolving doors and eating chewing gum off the pavement, all the usual fair for this type of film (see Coming to America, The Tourists, ET and so on…) eventually finding his father as well as a job in a Santa’s Grotto, which happily also has a grumpy Zooey Deshanel working there for Buddy to fall in love with and melt her cynical heart.
As you can see, the film is just packed with feel good cliché and festive cheer, from the stereotypical workaholic bosses to the bit of soul-searching, the revelation of the importance of family and the ‘need to believe’ in Santa, it’s all here, wrapped up in a tidy hour and a half movie of modern Christmas classic fun. Whether it’s the ‘soul-man’ animated snowman or the great ‘bonding’ snowball fight in central park against some bullies, and the cheery and fun race on Santa’s sleigh at the end, all the elements you need for a festive movie are here, and while maybe not as well-loved or as timeless as Miracle on 34th Street. Muppets Christmas Carol or A Wonderful Life, Elf has enough cheer and feel good factor to help you through even the toughest turkey and mince pies.
My favourite xmas film: Batman ReturnsMy favourite xmas film: Home AloneMy favourite xmas film: Trading PlacesMy favourite xmas film: Die HardMy favourite xmas film: It’s A Wonderful LifeMy favourite Christmas TV Programme: Knowing Me, Knowing Yule
24 December 2008