Thursday, December 20, 2018

New Christmas favorite

Well, I guess it's not ALL that new (2003), but it's newer than many Christmas movies I love.

I'm talking about "Elf," the Will Ferrell comedy. I love the movie partly because it's just funny, but I also love it because I can imagine what it COULD have been but chose not to be - and turned out, I think, a better and happier movie.

Will Ferrell does "naive and slightly goofy but good-hearted" very, very well in the movie. I think the reason it is so successful is that he was willing to go all-in on being a childlike Buddy. I read somewhere that Jim Carrey was originally slated to be Buddy, and I shudder just a little bit. I don't think Carrey projects the same goony likeability as Ferrell does (And I think Ferrell is also taller, which makes Buddy just that much funnier). Honestly, nearly all the parts are well-chosen: Mary Steenburgen works well as the mom, James Caan works surprisingly well as Buddy's bio-dad, there's something happy about seeing Bob Newhart as an elf....(I will say it's a little odd to me to see Zooey Deschanel as a blonde, but whatever, she works okay as Jovie) It's just a good-hearted silly movie, and there aren't enough of those made, I think.

And that's part of the thing I said about "I can imagine what it COULD have been." They could have gone very dark with the screenplay - that Buddy is actually 100% delusional, that there's not actually a real Santa, that he's living in a total fantasy world, and either the climax of the movie is that he snaps out of it....or the denouement is that he never does, and we wind up with an institutionalized Buddy (because in this darker movie, his biodad would never accept him) kind of still living in his own world, but confined within four walls - and that would have been terrible and depressing.

Or they could have gone rude and snarky with lots of over-the-top gross-out humor (worse than a long belch) and lots of rude innuendo, and that would have spoiled the movie also.

Instead, they went *mostly* family-friendly (there is, towards the end, a couple instances of characters saying "up yours," which I wouldn't regard as family-friendly, but other than that the movie is pretty clean). And it has a happy ending! Some movies need to have happy endings. Here, the family reconciles, Buddy's bio-dad gets a better new job, Buddy marries Jovie (and his adoptive dad - Bob Newhart - is shown enjoying time with his grandchild, and presumably Buddy's bio-dad also gets grandchild time).

And this is another one of those movies - like a few of the Hallmark Christmas movies - where Santa is a literal living being, a character, REAL. And that's nice too. I like that it went in the more fantasy-themed direction. And there's a lovely little "Tinkerbell moment" near the end and I dearly hope when it was shown (and I hope it still is shown some places) in theaters, that people in the audience sang along. I would want to.

I dunno. It's become one of my Christmas favorites because of its sheer good-heartedness. It's hard not to like Buddy (or at least I would find it hard) even as a 6' 4" tall guy in tights and a tunic, dancing around and eating syrup in real life would be deeply and disturbingly weird, in the world of the movie, it works. It's one of those movies that maybe seems like it shouldn't work, but it does. (Maybe some people find it overly twee, but as I've noted before: I am a fan of twee.)

And I know people say it's a "lightweight" movie and isn't deep or artistic or anything, but really, does all entertainment have to be? The movie is FUN, and I think that's what it set out to be, and it succeeds at that. Some things, as I've said many times, need to be light and fluffy and sweet, because there's enough unpleasantness and darkness in the world. 

I feel better and happier after watching it. There aren't a lot of things in pop culture that are like that, but it is. And that's why I watch it every season - I have it on dvd, but more often than not now, I happen to find it on one of the networks when they're showing it, and I watch. And I know it well enough now that I can come into it 20 minutes of 40 minutes in and know right where it is, and happily pick up from there.

(Apparently there were plans for a sequel, and Ferrell turned it down. Good for him. I think "Elf" is one of those movies that needs to stand on its own; I doubt the magic could be caught a second time and a sequel might somehow dilute the goodness of the original).

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

I've never seen ELF> I've seen bits, but that's not SEEING the movie. Maybe before next Christmas...