So, I just commented on my favorite Christmas film. Now for what is probably my least favorite. Namely: Elf.
Fair warning: this review may not be in the charitable spirit of the season. But, then again, neither is this movie. Proceed at risk of having this movie ruined for you.
There are so many things wrong with this movie, I hardly know where to begin. So, I suppose, I’ll just start at the beginning.
Santa accidentally takes a baby back to the North Pole with him, and decides to keep him, giving him to one of his chief subordinates to raise as an elf. For three or four decades, Buddy (the name comes from a word written on his underwear) is practically a freak of nature among the elves. He’s less capable at everything, despite how superhuman he would be among humans. He’s a misfit, and eventually leaves to go find his father, who happens to be on the naughty list. Buddy meets the man’s new family, including a wife and a son, and crashes straight into their collective lives.
Buddy also makes a splash at the supermarket where he’s mistaken for one of the elf employees, and where he meets his romantic interest, which involves him walking in on her in the shower (being elvishly naïve about women being naked when they bathe). He has no comprehension of lies (he thinks people are serious when they say they have the world’s best coffee) or of disgusting things (he eats the old, chewed gum off a rail), but he can create pretty decent toys from scrap (often reducing things, such as an entertainment center, into scrap as he uses its parts for his work). His naive inexperience wreaks havoc as he calls out the department store’s fake Santa and inadvertently insults a violently self-conscious man who suffers from dwarfism.
But he’s a one-man army in a snowball fight, manages to charm (with the assistance of his brother) the lady of his dreams, and he spreads Christmas cheer to little children. Even more, when Santa crashes his sleigh and needs rescuing, Buddy and his new family are there to save the day. His father, once on the naughty list, works his way onto the nice list as he re-centers his life on his family, and risks his life to draw the mean Central Park Rangers away from Santa, and sings out with everyone at the end of the movie. The girlfriend, who is self-conscious about singing, leads this city-wide sing-along of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Because Santa’s sleigh is powered by belief, and the little brother is already trying to stir up some belief with Santa’s book of what people want on live television (which is, I admit, an amusing scene). So they save the day, Santa delivers the presents, and Buddy’s new family is happier for his presence.
That’s all good stuff… right?
Yes, I liked the father’s story, as he reawakens as a father instead of a businessman. I liked the girlfriend gaining some confidence in her voice. I liked that scene where the brother is reading what people want for Christmas. (as he reads that the reporter wants a ring and for her boyfriend to grow a spine and commit, rendering her speechless)
I really did not like anything else.
In no particular order:
So Santa finds a baby in his sack when he gets back home. He clearly knows who the father of this baby is, so it must follow that he knows where he got Buddy. But Santa keeps the baby anyway, stealing him from his home and his mother, raising him as an elf, and one who can never possibly match the other elves in anything. For a Saint, that is really messed up.
Putting aside the general annoying factor Will Farrell can bring to any movie, he is particularly so in this movie. As Buddy, he is one of the loudest, most obnoxious, most immature people in the human race. As these folks put it, he’s a grown man acting like a five year old. That gets really old, really fast.
For a movie about happy, fun Christmas stuff, for kiddies, the shower scene was just way out of place. And raises questions of how the elves handle their hygiene, since Buddy didn’t realize a girl gets naked when she takes a shower.
Most importantly, contrast this with the tale of the Grinch stealing Christmas. While the presents are saved in the end, the point is that Christmas has become commercialized, corrupted from the original spirit of the season. When you get down to it, the presents are not what’s important.
Elf, on the other hand, has exactly the opposite vibe. Even when Buddy’s father chooses to be a father instead of a successful businessman, the struggle is all about getting the presents. It’s not about charity, it’s about Santa, or, rather, about presents. Somehow, I just find that so sickening that it’s hard to appreciate what is good about this movie.
While Grinch, whenever I get around to reviewing it, will probably get an A grade, five stars out of five, Elf is in the pits as far as I’m concerned. Between the out-of-place shower scene, the twisted message, and the sheer, unrelenting annoyance which is the main character, Elf is definitely on my naughty list.
Two stars out of five. Or maybe just one-and-a-half.