It’s time for a Christmas film that I’ve known about for a long time but never got around to watching before. Elf’s premise just isn’t my cup of tea but of course the film can get around that if the execution is good enough. It’s definitely well known and I will definitely admit that the film has its moments. I don’t think I would call it one of the all time Christmas greats or anything but it is decently good all the same. I’d be interested in a prequel about the pony riders who show up near the climax. Those guys were some of the best characters in the film.
So the film is about a human who was taken by Santa accidentally around Christmas. As a result he was brought to the North Pole and tricked into thinking that he was an elf. Buddy never realized the truth which worked very well for the system. However, Buddy was no good at any of the tasks and one day he overheard some gossip that he isn’t a real elf. Buddy decides to go back to New York to find his father. Despite being warned that his father isn’t the nicest guy, Buddy appears to be shocked by this in every scene. What can he do to make everyone nice again?
As you can probably tell, the main annoying thing here is Buddy himself. The guy is just very slow on the uptake and seriously cannot take a hint. His naivety is taken to the maximum possible extreme as you would think he is an alien. He has no manners when eating which leads to a bunch of crude humor. He also has no common sense such as eating dirty gum and arguing with his supervisor over minor things. He is definitely a character who has not heard the phrase, “Don’t Rock The Boat.” Buddy is supposed to be endearing and likable but that part never actually happens. He just stays annoying the whole time. There’s a clear line between the two and it was crossed consistently.
I don’t really care for the trope of the super naive character who just doesn’t understand anything. A character like Drax The Destroyer who takes everything literally is one example or Starfire from Teen Titans. Typically it’s a plot that is used when an alien comes to Earth or when a kid is raised in the jungle all his life and as a result he doesn’t really know anything about human interactions. Yet another example of this trope is when a genius character knows everything except common sense. The irony is supposed to be humorous but that flops as well. Naturally since the whole film is based around Buddy that ends up limiting its potential. At least the supporting cast is good though.
Walter is Buddy’s father and right now he is a very successful business man. Honestly he doesn’t even seem like a terrible guy. He does take some short cuts in his book publishing which is sleazy but no too over the top. In theory it just won’t sell well because word of mouth will let the consumers know not to buy it. It’s not a trick you can get away with twice. Beyond that Walter is just consumed with work and keeps it as top priority. At least he doesn’t seem like he’s mad with power at home. In one scene he says that maybe his wife Jovie should stay home to look after Buddy but she just declines and comes up with another plan. Clearly she is not going to get pushed around by him. Josie isn’t even upset at Walter compared to Jingle All The Way where the main character also took work too seriously but everyone was mad at him for it. There is no bad blood between Walter and Jovie here and it’s a much better dynamic so both of these characters end up being really good. There are times you have to sympathize with Walter, like any moment Buddy is on screen. Buddy was actively sabotaging the job that Walter had worked so hard to obtain so it makes sense why he would be upset. If Buddy has acted even slightly normal then I don’t think Walter would have had a problem with him. It’s just all a matter of not going off the deep end.
Jovie did her best to welcome in Buddy and is a direct contrast to Walter. As explained, I don’t think it makes him a bad character though but she is certainly better equipped to handle the situation. At first you figure that she may get tired of his antics but she plays along and tries to convince Walter that her should help him out so he will lose his elf delusion. She even eats some spaghetti with syrup since Buddy made it so she wouldn’t hurt his feelings. She didn’t have to deal with him as much as Walter but you can be sure the film would have been a little different for Buddy if he had been looking to her for guidance.
Emily is the main heroine. She has been disillusioned with the world due to working retail which is as good a reason as any. She dislikes her job and seemingly isn’t following whatever career path she had hoped to be in. Fortunately for her, Buddy joins her job. Before he is fired, he convinced her to hope again and their really rushed romance kicks off. I can’t say I was a huge fan of her plot line and it doesn’t really make all that much sense. It all happens really fast and considering that Buddy acted completely crazy the whole time, it’s just intriguing at best. She’s not a bad character though although it’d be nice if she was a little happier at work. The boss seemed to enjoy his job so why couldn’t she?
Granted, the boss is the best character in the film so I’m setting the bar rather high here. The tackle he pulled off against the fake Santa was pretty intense and you were reminded that his guy could fight. Not to mention that he was one step ahead of corporate and was ready for their inside agent. He is just a quality character and someone who is not to be trifled with. I would have liked to have seen more screen time from this guy because he was just great. Finally we also have Michael, Buddy’s little brother. He likes being a rebel so when he finds out that Buddy doesn’t mind jumping on beds and messing up stores as well he tags him in. The two get along pretty well as a result and it’s a decent enough subplot. It never gets a lot of screen time or anything but from those scenes Michael seems like a reasonable enough character.
There are a few other characters like Santa Clause and Buddy’s adopted father but they don’t do a whole lot. From the minor characters it is clear that the Pony Riders are the best. They actually know that Santa is real unlike the common masses but actively try to hunt him down and eliminate the old man. You could say that this should power up Santa’s sleigh since it runs in belief but a handful of people won’t really make a big difference compared to the rest of the world not buying into it. I would have liked the film to have given these characters a little more screen time to be honest.
Overall, like all comedies Elf has some jokes that work and some that don’t. It’s an entertaining film from start to finish though and one that doesn’t drag on either. The supporting cast is solid and the film’s very upbeat which makes it a good film for Christmas. At the very least it’s one that will leave you feeling content. Buddy should have been toned down though as that would have made the whole film more enjoyable. He’s just so extreme that you certainly can’t sympathize with him and I feel like the film wasn’t intentionally trying to make him unlikable. If they were…then they succeeded. The romance is rather weak as well, but whenever Walter is on screen you know someone is going to get burned. I’d recommend checking it out at least once so you can add it to your collection of Christmas films that you’ve seen.