In the run-up to the big tinselly bang, our writers check out some Christmas celluloid classics. Dotty Winters kicks us off with Will Ferrell’s loveable man-child.
It seems that Christmas gets earlier and more commercial every year. Trees start popping up in late October, selection packs arrive in the aisles before we’ve finished with our pumpkins, and as soon as we’ve put the clocks back every second ‘position vacant’ advert is for department store elves.
All of this is undeniably terrible, but it isn’t the worst thing about Christmas. The worst thing about Christmas is the way we’ve created a national sport out of Bah Humbugging and pissing on other people’s (kettle) chips. Why are we so offended by other people’s joy? I struggle to understand how slagging off the couple at Number 37 for their inflatable Santa improves anyone else’s Yuletide.
Some people live for inflatable Santas and others would rather fast forward straight to Easter. Whichever side of the great Christmas divide you find yourself, we all basically want the same thing: a festive period which focuses on the true spirit of the season.
OK, I know that the issue of what the true spirit of Christmas actually is remains hotly contested. My version (thanks for asking) is non-religious, family based and heavily cheese focused, you know, like normal people.
And that’s why I love Elf. For me, the core message of this film is that whatever your version is, even if your choice is to avoid the whole debacle, you don’t get to stamp on anyone else’s baubles. Somewhere along the line we’ve started to penalise enthusiasm in adults, especially when it comes to the festive season – Elf celebrates it.
“I understand that this film does not sound like it’s a winner, but I promise you that it’s more festive than a sage and onion-stuffed robin redbreast.”
Will Ferrell’s Buddy is a human adoptee, raised as an elf, who sets off to find his birth father, and manages to save Christmas along the way. The plot is ridiculous, and it matters not a jot, because the strength of this film is in its impressive gag rate and commitment to epic silliness. On paper this film has Christmas Log written all over it; in reality, it’s worth more stars than Doreen’s Christmas cardigan.
I’m not a committed Ferrell fan: for me his work in Elf is a shining jewel in an otherwise jaded crown of fart jokes. But as Buddy, with his childish joy and larger-than-elf enthusiasm, he is just so fucking charming. It is testament to his powers to channel child-like innocence that scenes where he insults Peter Dinklage about his height, stalks Zooey Deschanel in a shower and peddles that age-old bull crap about the power of belief are somehow brilliant rather than shocking, creepy or vomit-inducing respectively.
Zooey Deschanel also shines in this film, which was made before she elevated ‘being kooky’ into a LinkedIn skill set. Her performance is a perfect balance of sweet and snarky and her singing voice is pleasantly un-stage-schooly. The remainder of the cast is equally knockout, with James Caan (the good one, not the dragon one), Peter Dinklage, Mary Steenburgen and Bob Newhart each adding to the warmth and festive wonderfulness.
This film has masses of heart. I’ve only met a few people who’ve seen it and not enjoyed it (don’t write in if you are one of these; save your energy for stealing Tiny Tim’s walking stick), but their numbers are swamped by those who adore it and the foolish few who decided not to see it because it doesn’t sound like a good plan.
If you are in that last category, I understand that this film does not sound like it’s a winner, but I promise you that it’s more festive than a sage and onion-stuffed robin redbreast. If you’ve avoided watching it thus far you should immediately mend your ways or you may find yourself on the naughty list, you cotton-headed ninny muggins.
Since 2016 has been a proper ballache, it would be incredibly easy to fall back on eye-rolling and tutting our way through Yuletide. Elf exists to remind us to never lose the true spirit of Christmas: joy, family, hope, deep commitment to consuming sugar, creative ways to swear in front of kids, competitive burping and wilful misuse of revolving doors.
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Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.