Thursday, December 13, 2018

Elf Discovery

Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Peter Dinklage
Released: November 7, 2003
Viewed in theaters: November 8, 2003 and November 28, 2003

I know what you're thinking: How could I have this movie blog for nearly ten years (!!) and have never done a review on Elf, one of the most beloved Christmas movies of our time and a movie I've mentioned on several occasions (especially around this time of the year) as being one of my favorite holiday films? Well, the truth is, I DID write a review for this movie back in 2009, the year I started this blog. But it was a terrible review and only about two paragraphs long. Yeah, my early reviews are pretty terrible. I wouldn't recommend going back and reading them; seriously, don't. So I just deleted that one. But, shhh! Don't tell anyone! It will be our little secret.  So now I'm giving this beloved Christmas classic the review it deserves.

I would be shocked if there's anyone out there who has never seen this movie. It's not just one of the funniest holiday movies I've ever seen, but one of the funniest movies I've seen, period. I'm sure I have seen it well over ten times (possible even more!) and I still laugh at certain scenes even though I know what's coming up. I can pretty much recite the dialogue verbatim and have used many of the lines in my own life. Who haven't we called a "cotton-headed ninny muggins"? And while there are many important things in this world that I SHOULD know, but don't, I can proudly recite the four main food groups of elves: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup. Because God knows when you're going to need to know that! (By the way, wouldn't candy canes and candy corns be lumped in with candy? Why do they get their own special group? I kinda get candy canes because they're synonymous with Christmas, but candy corn is more of a Halloween confection. If you really think about it, elves only have one major food group and it is SUGAR! We know Buddy LOVES sugar! I love the scene where he pours syrup all over his spaghetti, then  crumbles a Pop Tart over it.)

It's fun to see the North Pole and Santa's workshop in the beginning of the film. I loved the way they created the North Pole; it's very reminiscent of those classic holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. You could have almost had a spinoff movie just based on that. Not only do you have Bob Newhart as Papa Elf (hmm, I guess The Smurfs don't have a trademark on that!) and Ed Asner as Santa and all the other elves, but you have Leon the snowman, the Arctic puffin, and Mr. Narwhal. The North Pole seems like this wonderful place to visit, however, I don't think it would be such a great place to work! Seems like those elves aren't getting a fair deal; not that I think they really care as they all seem to really love what they do. I love that the head elf tells them that Christmas was a success and that it's time to prepare for next year. It's literally Christmas Day and now they have to get ready for next year. Do they not even get a week off? I suppose when you have to make toys for all the kids in the world, you're going to be pretty busy and won't have any time to rest. Like in The Christmas Chronicles, this also seems to be another Christmas movie where kids only get one present from Santa as we see there's only one toy described next to their names in Santa's naughty/nice book. But to be fair to Santa, if you have to make every single kid in the world several toys, that could take quite a long time as I'm sure making all those kids ONE toy takes plenty of time as it is!

The elves kinda seem to be jerks because they shame Buddy when they learn he's only built 85 Etch-a-Sketches, making him 955 off pace. I remember having an Etch-a-Sketch as a kid. Come to think of it, was it even possible to draw anything but a few squiggles? I love that Buddy draws the Mona Lisa on one later when he's preparing for Santa's visit to the department store ("SANTA! I know him, I know him!"), but there's no way anybody could ever do that, right?? I think the worst part of being an elf would absoluetly have to be testing the Jack in the Boxes. I would be like Buddy, cringing ever time the creepy figurine would pop up and it would be even worse if it popped up later than expected. Jack in the Boxes are the devil's toy!

When Buddy learns he's actually a human and not an elf (took him awhile to figure that out and he only found out because he heard the elves talking about it), he decides to trek to New York City to find his father, Walter Hobbs (James Caan) who's on the...DUN DUN DUN....naughty list. I love how immediately after we're told this, we cut to a scene where we see Walter, who works at a publishing company, telling a sweet frail old nun he has to take back the books because they missed the payment and the nun says, "But the children love the books!" They're really showing us this guy is a real a-hole!

Will Ferrell is infectious and has a childlike earnest as Buddy that you can see why he's so likable, but you can also see why people would get impatient with him! A few years after this movie was released, I wrote a Harry Potter fanfic called Hogwarts' Next Top Witch (obviously a parody of America's Next Top Model) and there's a chapter where Harry, Ron, and  Ron's dad go to Harrods and I blatantly stole a lot of things out of Elf  (don't worry; I gave the movie credit) when Buddy goes to Gimbel's: I had Arthur go through the revolving door about four times just like Buddy; I had him eagerly except passion fruit spray, spraying it in his mouth just like Buddy; I had him afraid to go on the escalator, again, just like Buddy; and I had him push all the buttons on the elevator, just like Buddy does when he pushes all the elevator buttons when he's at the Empire State Building. ("It looks like a Christmas tree!)  I told you I blatantly stole a lot of lot of things from Elf while writing that chapter! I visited New York a year and a half after Elf was released and I'm sure I mentioned something about that scene when we went to the Empire State Building. I have a feeling there's no way you could do that as they have people who work there manning the elevators, right? I don't remember for sure, but they must so people can't mess with the buttons. My friend and I once did that at a hotel in Denver (but there was, like maybe ten buttons instead of the 100 or so buttons the ESB probably has.) We also didn't do it while someone was in the elevator with us, but when we saw someone was getting on the elevator as we were exiting, we sure ran as hell!

I love when Buddy first meets Walter dressed in his green elf uniform and yellow tights and Walter tells him, "You look like you came from the North Pole" and Buddy's eyes light up and he replies, "That's EXACTLY where I came from!" Also, when he meets Walter's wife, Emily (Mary Steenburgen) and his son, Michael (Buddy's half-brother) and Emily asks him how long he'll be staying at their house, Buddy replies, "I haven't thought about it, but I was thinking forever." Hehe. That is the worst answer any house guest could ever give you!

Another great scene is when Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) is taking a shower in the Gimbel's restroom (do most department stores have a shower? Maybe it's just for employees) and Buddy is right outside and starts singing along with her. Normally this would be a totally creepy scene, but because it's Buddy and he doesn't know any better, it comes off as completely innocent. While it is cute that he falls for Jovie because she's wearing an elf uniform, it is a little weird that she falls for him since he has the mind of a child. It's like in Big when Elizabeth Perkins falls for a twelve-year-old who looks like a thirty-year-old Tom Hanks. But Jovie is important to the story because it is the mantra Buddy supplies her with, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear" that she uses when she gets all the people to sing Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town so Santa's sleigh can run on Christmas spirit. I'm not ashamed to tell people that I cry during Elf, especially during that scene. That scene gets me every time. EVERY TIME!

And of course another great scene is when a pre-Game of Thrones Peter Dinklage plays Miles Finch, a popular and highly-regarded children's author who has agreed to write a book for Walter's publishing company. Of course Walter's worst nightmare comes true when Buddy ends up coming in the room and is excited to see another elf and asks Finch if Santa knows that he's here. Rightly this should make any small person angry, but Miles, as we already saw in a previous scene is very high maintenance and thinks himself to be the greatest children's author since Dr. Seuss. He already has a very high ego so when Buddy calls him an elf, it really irks him and he dares Buddy, "Call me elf one more time!" and when Buddy declares, "He's an angry elf!", Miles runs across the table and kicks him in the chest. I loved that Buddy was certain he was a South Pole elf.

Lots of great scenes and great actors with great Christmas music makes this film a Christmas classic.

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