6 Star Movies, Live Action Movie Reviews, Live Action Movies, Reviews

Elf Review

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.

Overall 6/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

The Polar Express Review

THIS IS THE POLAR EXPRESS!!!!! When the conductor yelled that, it was an intense scene. It’ll remind you of a time when someone may have said that you’re homemade oven baked french fries tasted like McDonald’s so you’d say “What…THIS IS THE HOME COOKED DINNER I MADE!” I dunno, I just got that vibe and it was a pretty epic quote. I can’t say that the film is very epic though. It’s a nice Christmas story, but that’s about all that I can say for it right now. It definitely needed some work in different areas and doesn’t fully live up to its hype, but it feels good to see a quality Christmas film.

I didn’t actually realize this while watching the film, but the main character’s name was actually never said? That’s pretty surreal if you ask me. Well…it’s not like he was a likable character anyway so I can get around that. One day, the kid goes outside so he can catch Santa Clause in the act of giving away presents, but a train pulls into his backyard. The conductor tells him to climb aboard and the main character reluctantly obliges this request. Once aboard, he meets the other kids, but the main character can’t stay out of trouble. He drops a girl’s train ticket out the window so now he must try to find it as the train gets closer and closer to the North Pole. Time to meet Santa!

As you can already guess, I did not like the main character. He was constantly double thinking the other kids and was always way too hesitant. Who would leave their warm house on Christmas Eve in the dead of night to go aboard a mysterious train? I would have still had some respect for the kid if he had gone in right away, but he waited until after the train was leaving to jump on. These moments of hesitation just make him look bad. The main character also loses the girl’s ticket in rather clumsy fashion. How hard can it be to hold on to a ticket?

The film likes to be very mysterious so you can decide on whether things really happened or if they were a dream. In one scene, the main character sees the conductor take the girl to the top of the train where they braved the elements and walked all the way over to the front area where she took charge of the controls. The main character tried to follow them, but it was a long journey and he got to go Skiing. I’m pretty sure that he just fell in the snow and fainted before waking up and quickly walking over to the front. Still, I wonder if he had started making the journey at all and maybe this was all just an elaborate dream…nahhhh. I still would never say that this was a dream, supernatural elements are fun after all.

The main girl was all right so she helped to cover for the main character. She believed in having a good time and going with the flow. Unlike the main character, who forgot about the kid who jumped aboard and then did not want to take the risk of giving him any hot cocoa, the girl was always ready to help. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the shy kid who came aboard. Jumping on the train was already dicey, but then deciding to hide by himself in the final car….I don’t know about that. Seemed like a strange move and there weren’t even any token bullies that were around to keep him away. There was the smart kid who loved to talk and talk and talk, but the guy was never mean spirited. If anything, it was impressive to see him keep up with the main characters. Almost a little too impressive, but I’ll let it slide.

There aren’t a whole lot of Christmas songs to be found here, but a few did pop up before the film ended and those tunes were good. The soundtrack was good enough considering that I didn’t have huge hopes for it and the quick Hot Chocolate dance wasn’t bad either. It was neat to see how you can throw a Hot Chocolate in such a way so that it would not spill. Now that’s what I call true Skillz!

The animation still isn’t my thing. It sort of reminds me of those “Animate yourself” ads that played a while back before the hand drawn versions replaced them. It doesn’t feel very high budget even though it probably did cost a bit for the transition. I think American animation can be good, but I prefer more of a traditional approach like Justice League or something or that nature. It allows for more streamlined action scenes. For example, jumping on the train and getting across the mountains would be more intense visually using the classic animation strategies. The scenes were still cool though and the animation isn’t bad like some other styles, but this “theater” feel that I get from the film isn’t really a positive this time.

I felt like the film moved on at a fairly quick pace. I never found myself bored, but you definitely need to go into the film remembering that there is barely a plot. Most of the film is just the train ride to the goal and the slight setback of going through a factory first. Nothing really happens by the end so you can go away with an empty feeling, but maybe you’ll walk away with a grin instead. I feel like the film would have been significantly better with older main characters. Yes, not just better, but significantly better. I actually thought up a plot that would have made this film almost unrecognizable in terms of quality.

The main characters could have been business folk who never had time to spend with their kids on Christmas because they would work overtime or they would be catching up on zzzzz’s. So, one day a train rolls into the backyard on Christmas Eve saying that they will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and a large check of money if the trip was a waste. The business guys and gals would jump at the chance for this and during the ride: bonds would be formed, (Friendzone bonds because the main characters will all already have an attachment or just not be interested in that sort of thing) challenges would be overcome, and lessons would be learned. The dialogue would be much better and the characters would have a chance to be charismatic.

Tom Hanks ended up being the best character here and more adults in the film could have given him some competition if given the chance. Characters are very important and you can always count on that aspect of the film being able to tip the scales when given a chance. We need a Polar Express remake with adults and as long as the writing is on point, you can bet that it will be an improvement.

Overall, The Polar Express is a good film. I don’t really buy into the enormous amounts of hype that the film got back in the day, but it’s a fairly nice adventure. I just wish that the characters could have been more likable as that was the film’s main weakpoint. I wouldn’t have minded an action scene or two as well while I’m on the subject. You can’t go wrong with a quick fight right? I doubt this film is getting a sequel at this point, but if it does…I want Santa Clause to have to debate on whether he should work on Christmas anymore or not. I also want to see the parents ask where the kids went during the night, they must have noticed that something was up after all! (I do like how they dismissed the bell though, it was an epic troll moment. Of course, I could go on and on about the bell. Just when I thought the main character couldn’t get worse…he put the bell in his broken pocket. I just don’t see how you would do such a thing, you would notice that it wasn’t in your pocket immediately right? Noooooooooooo)

Overall 6/10