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Movie Night Preview: Elf

December 4, 2015

written by Brian Shesko

Student Activities is practically bursting with Christmas spirit, which is why we’re bringing you not one but two showings of Elf on Friday, December 4 in the LaHaye Event Space. Show times will be as follows:

  • First showing – 8:00 p.m.
  • Second showing – 10:00 p.m.

At this point, you can basically trace the all-time great Christmas movies by decade: Miracle on 34th Street and It’s A Wonderful Life in the 40’s, White Christmas in the 50’s, Charlie Brown, The Grinch, and Rudolph in the 60’s, A Christmas Story in the very early 80’s, Christmas Vacation and Home Alone in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But very few Christmas movies since Home Alone are beloved and/or display the magic of the holidays enough to be added to this list. Except, that is, for Elf

Elf could have been much different. Elf could have starred Jim Carrey instead of Will Ferrell. Consider for a moment how your childhood could have been affected if this had been true. Thankfully, we live in a world where Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf is arguably his most popular character, and one who represents the childlike wonder and joy that everyone hopes for at Christmas. This is certainly one of the reasons Elf became so popular. However, the supporting cast of the movie is outstanding as well, and provides all the balance to Buddy that makes it so appealing. Think of the dour look and feel of James Caan (Walter), Bob Newhart (Papa Elf), and even Zooey Deschanel (Jovie). Each provides a realistic, or pessimistic, proportion to the unbridled optimism and fantasy of Buddy. And while much of the humor of Elf is the result of Buddy as a “fish-out-of-water”, the sight gags and slapstick nature of the movie makes it endearing and forever-fun, while still touching on some deeper, more difficult issues. The pressures of work and family tensions, particularly between father and son, are obvious story features and allow for the excellent supporting performances from James Caan and Mary Steenburgen (Emily). 

Elf is a feel-good holiday classic because it has everything you love about Christmas. You love it because it’s silly. It has a Claymation narwhal, Buddy says “cotton-headed ninny muggins”, and he burps for 12 seconds. It is familiar, paying homage to several other Christmas classics, using the original elf uniforms featured in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and casting Peter Billingsley (aka, Ralphie) as the elf Ming Ming. It has Peter Dinklage. In the end, however, Elf is a feel-good holiday classic because it is about maintaining the belief, wonder, and joy of Christmas.