12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Elf


Actually, I tolerate this movie at a rate of only medium, rather than “highly,” but I picked it over Gremlins because I had more to say about it, I’d seen it more recently, and I had found better screencaps. Plus there is Zooey Deschanel as a blonde. Singing. In the shower.

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003).

After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.

(the imdb)


Please answer the phone that way at least once this week. I plan to but, then, I almost always answer the phone weird, so I won’t have that element of surprise that you will. (My new favorite? Ask the person who’s calling you if they’re there instead of saying hello. Example: it comes up on caller I.D. as “Joe Brown.” Answer the phone, “Is Joe there? Can I speak with Joe Brown, please? Mr. Brown? You’re probably wondering why I’ve called …”)


That’s another thing. (sigh) Buddy, you should know that your father — he’s on the Naughty List.

Nooooo!

I remember thinking when this came out how odd it was that Jon Favreau directed it, but Buddy’s father Walter Hobbs, as interpreted by James Caan, is certainly what I would think of as a Favreauvian creation: a nasty, singleminded piece of work who needs the familiar but lonely high ground of distance from others, and congruent distance from the emotions intimacy might entail, above all else.

(Psst, it is Amy Sedaris. Woo-hoo!)

I think we should call security.

Good idea.

I like to whisper too!

Buddy is a nuisance to his own father not only because of his inconvenient bumblings, but also because he is a deviation from the norm. To confront a person who won’t let you push them away is to confront yourself, and people like Walter Hobbs seek to avoid that at all costs. I believe Favreau is a genius at whipping up these mean little slaves to the system, as an actor and as a director.

That said about a keen and critical eye for slaves to the system, the product placement in this film is almost beyond belief. One of the most blatant things I’ve seen since E.T. I do not count the scene in Wayne’s World II because they did that on purpose (albeit they got paid).



Zooey Deschanel: I don’t know about elves. I didn’t think much about elves because I was trying to think about the man in charge, the one that was going to bring me presents. I believed in Santa Claus until I was, like, 14. [I believed] if my parents think I do, then they’ll give me two sets of presents. And if Santa Claus really does exist, then he’ll appreciate my support.

(“Zooey Deschanel talks about Elf.” Rebecca Murray. 2003. About.com)


Make work your favorite. That’s your new “favorite.”

When the threads of this project were spun out of the distaff of Hollywood nothingness in 1993, Jim Carrey was originally attached to star as Buddy the Elf. I truly love the guy but I am pretty glad he didn’t get it. He’s got far too much pathos in his eyes and the film would have flopped. Will Ferrell gives Buddy an unblinking, irascible cheerfulness that you get the sense would not flag in the face of finding himself engulfed in flames, like a grip of Terminator robots grimly marching across the ocean floor in pursuit of John Connor. Oh, hey, marriage-made-in-heaven sequel idea? “Come wit’ me if yoo be-leaf in Santa!”


Now what can I get you for Christmas?

Don’t tell him what you want, he’s a liar.

Let the kid talk.

You disgust me! How can you live with yourself?

Just cool it, Zippy.

You sit on a throne of lies!

See? I told you Zooey Deschanel showers in this movie. She also eats top ramen. Tell a friend.

Yeah, pretty much. Where this film succeeds for me is in its treatment of the redemption of characters peripheral to Buddy the Elf: namely, his father, Walter, and Jovie, his would-be girlfriend. Grating as he is, if Buddy had changed to accept the new world in to which he thrusts himself, it would have been a cheap and deflating transformation à la Enchanted.*

To see people rise above themselves and protect a dumb, innocent guy is at least affirming. Buddy doesn’t have to change, because the world will always have burpy rays of sunshine: we need to change enough to take care of them, to share their optimism and deserve their devotion. I can hang with that.

Extra-tolerable bonus: Buddy’s supervisor at the North Pole is Peter Billingsley, of A Christmas Story. “You’re not a cotton-headed ninny-muggins, Buddy. You’re just … different.” Aw. Super-cool!





*Enchanted had nice music but, really, Giselle goes from being a full-throated maiden of the forest to Chi-ironing her hair and operating a dress shop in Manhattan. Conform, little girl! For all the posturing at positioning a new kind of feminist anti-hero that that script threw at us, in the end, it pandered to the same “princess-demographic” ideals it was purporting to rebel against. But, dang, that Amy Adams is cute as a button, yes?

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2 Responses to “12 Days of Highly Tolerable Holiday Movies: Elf”

  1. Gridley Says:

    As much as I love both Zooey Deschanel and the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” I find it highly doubtful that anyone would choose to sing just half of that particular duet, intentionally leaving the other half of the song unsung.

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